Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Smith Myth Heels Coach a Unique Blend on Tobacco Road

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Smith Myth Heels Coach a Unique Blend on Tobacco Road

Article excerpt

Curious fellow, this Dean Smith . . .

Perhaps the best way to know the North Carolina basketball coach is to try to absorb the things that most people don't know about him:

That he is a near-scratch golfer who will battle like crazy to beat you on the course. But also that . . . He has been known to send Christmas cards to former recruits after they decided to attend other schools. That he will call timeouts late in blow-out victories, reset the score to 0-0 for his reserves, and then order them to "win" the rest of the game - no slack allowed. But also that . . . He is a God-fearing family man whose only discernible vices are cigarettes and an occasional nip of whiskey, is devoted to his wife and five children, and dotes on his four grandkids. He carried an NAACP membership card in his wallet more than 30 years ago, despite working in a segregationist Southern state, and was vociferously opposed to the Vietnam War and nuclear proliferation. But also that . . . He enjoys soothing his mind by reading the works of Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. And he will gladly discuss with you why Nietzsche is not his favorite. That he is accepted unabashedly as an icon in North Carolina, where finding someone who has something bad to say about him is as challenging as uncovering a Duke fan in Chapel Hill. But also that . . . He once returned to campus from a road loss early in his career to find himself hung in effigy by dismayed Tar Heels supporters. That he has attracted a stunning wealth of basketball talent - including Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Bobby Jones and Jerry Stackhouse - to his renowned outpost on Tobacco Road, including 21 first-round NBA draft picks. But also that . . . More than 97 percent of his players have received their degrees. About half of them went on to graduate school. That he has won more games than any other coach in the history of college basketball. But also that . . . He genuinely hates to talk about it, consistently heaping the praise on his former players and assistant coaches - including Roy Williams, Larry Brown, George Karl and Eddie Fogler - then rapidly steering the conversation elsewhere. Curious fellow . . . Coaching Is Happiness "No one knew about it on the team or the staff," North Carolina assistant coach Phil Ford said, recalling the day in 1993 when Smith passed Phog Allen, his coach at Kansas, in career victories. "We were sitting on the bus, and I'm reading the newspaper when I found out about it," Ford said. "I yelled across the aisle, `Congratulations, Coach! You just passed Phog Allen!' He waved his hand and scowled and said, `I've had great players like yourself and Michael and Mitch Kupchak.' And he went right on down the line. "He never, never wanted any praise. . . . He's just happy to be coaching. …

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