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Fanfare for an Uncommon Man
Alexander Wolff
December 22, 1997
He become the winningest college basketball coach of all time and capped an exemplary career with a graceful retirement. For all of that we honor North Carolina's Dean Smith
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December 22, 1997

Fanfare For An Uncommon Man

He become the winningest college basketball coach of all time and capped an exemplary career with a graceful retirement. For all of that we honor North Carolina's Dean Smith

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Over the summer of 1947, in time for Dean's junior year in high school, the Smiths moved to Topeka. In high school Dean always held down the coachly positions—quarterback, catcher, point guard. But he was also a spirited boy and seemed unlikely to become a man who would stay on one campus for nearly 40 years.

JOAN SMITH EWING, his older sister :
Dean wasn't mischievous so much as curious. When he was very small, he and the little girl next door took off and walked to the florist around the block. They were pretending they were Bill and Betty—Bill was a player on Dad's team, and Betty was his girlfriend. My parents were scared to death when they discovered them missing. When he was 10 or so, Dean and a neighbor friend went down a manhole at the end of our street and explored the sewers. Another time he climbed the tower at the teachers' college. Mother used to call him Christopher Columbus because he always wanted to explore.

BUD ROBERTS, high school classmate :
We'd play one-on-one in the alley, games to 20 by twos. He was very competitive, yet neither of us had any money, so he'd say, "Whoever loses has to tell the winner, 'You're a much better basketball player than I am.' " I was the one who always had to say it.

JOAN SMITH EWING:
The summer before ninth grade he lost his best friend, Shad Woodruff, to polio. He and Shad had played baseball on the Fourth of July, and the next day Shad was dead of lumbar polio. All of us were devastated. But Dean's reaction was very positive. He made a scrapbook of Shad's accomplishments, awards and activities at school and gave it to Shad's mother and father. It was his way of working out his grief. He's never been one to linger over disappointments. He values what comes from the past but has always been ready to move forward, to do more exploring.

COLLEGE YEARS, 1949-53
" Everyone understood that he was going to be a coach "

Though he played basketball there, Smith went to Kansas on an academic scholarship. He joined a fraternity and majored in math. Smith played little as the Jayhawks won the 1952 NCAA title and were runners-up the following season. But during his time in Lawrence, the guard at the end of the bench established his place in basketball's genealogical line: The game's inventor, James Naismith, taught legendary Jayhawks coach Phog Allen, who taught Smith, who would in turn teach Michael Jordan. Smith never met Naismith, who died in 1939, but one Memorial Day he was among a group of Jayhawks who decorated Naismith's grave.

BUD ROBERTS:
Good things always seemed to happen to Dean. The summer before we left for college, about five of us worked at a cement plant, lifting and opening 100-pound sacks of cement. The owner of the company came over one day and said, "You're Dean Smith. I understand you pledged Phi Gam at Kansas. Well, I'm a Phi Gam." From then on Dean got to sit and read coaching manuals on top of a gravel pile, while we ripped open 100-pound sacks.

MARILYN TOWLER ROBERTS, a former girlfriend, now Bud Roberts's wife :
There was someone else who wanted to date Dean, and he decided that he couldn't handle two girls at one time, so he and Bud flipped a coin to sec what he was going to do. So I started dating Bud, and Dean started dating this other girl.

RICH CLARKSON, sportswriter and photographer, The Lawrence Daily Journal-World, 1951-57 :
The Jayhawks bench had a strict pecking order. The trainer sat at the head of it, then Phog Allen, then Dr. Allen's assistant Dick Harp with the first substitute, the sixth man, sitting next to him, and so on down the line. Dean would start at the far end of the bench, but after a few substitutions, a few timeouts, things would start sorting themselves out, and eventually you'd see Dean sitting next to Coach Harp and Doc Allen. It was just understood that Dean was seeing things that he would want to mention. Everyone understood that he was going to be a coach.

STARTING OUT, 1953-65
"You could see his genius even then
"

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