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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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His calm throughout was amazing. The way he walked us through those 17 seconds, it was as if he said, "Don't think about this. Just do as I say and we'll win." There he was in the huddle, looking up at us with a kind of smile, saying, "Bobby [Jones], make these two free throws, then we'll go into this defense, steal the inbounds pass, score and call timeout." He didn't let us think about being down eight. He gave us step one—just do that. So Bobby made both free throws. We stole the pass. We scored. We called timeout. It all happened so fast.

I remember the last play in particular. Their best free throw shooter missed the front end of a one-and-one. We grabbed the rebound and called our last timeout. We had the ball under their basket and had to go the length of the floor. Coach calmly told us to run the 5-3-5. The five man, me, took the ball out and threw it to the three man on a five pattern, which is a square-out at midcourt. We'd run the play in practice so often that we wondered when we'd really need it. Normally we'd try to get the ball to half-court and call timeout. But we had none left, so the plan was to get Walter the ball, have him take one dribble and shoot. He did, and banked it in.

The key to it all was that we were prepared—and that we believed. I'll tell you, we believed a lot more afterward, too.

BOBBY JONES, forward, 1970-74:
One thing I'll always remember is his honesty. He'd tell you he was struggling with smoking. We all knew he had problems, just like everyone else, but most coaches would never admit to them. He also admitted he didn't have all the answers.

TOM LaGARDE, center, 1973-77:
If one of us got a technical, we all had to run suicides the next day in practice. Now, Dean would get technicals too, but his were usually calculated. But once or twice a year he'd get one he didn't intend to get, and he and the coaches would run suicides for the unintentional technicals. [Assistant] coach [Bill] Guthridge ran five to 10 miles a day, but Dean didn't run much. So he would get pretty winded.

TERRY HOLLAND, Virginia coach, 1974-90:
He thought one of my players, Marc Iavaroni, was roughing up Phil Ford, and at halftime when the teams came off the court at the ACC tournament in 1977, he confronted Marc—physically touched him and said things. That's one area where I think Dean always had a problem. He felt he had a right, in order to protect his players in his own mind, to confront other people's players. That's extremely dangerous and way over the line. I'm sure Dean would say that Marc was a dirty player. But that's what the officials were out there for. You can't be objective in that situation.

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, Duke coach, 1980-present:
We've all probably done things we're not proud of, backing up one of our players. But I can't think of a time I've ever heard him blame or degrade one of his own players, and in return, his kids are fiercely loyal to him. That kind of loyalty doesn't just happen. Things done on a day-to-day basis develop that kind of relationship.

The Big Ten was really physical back then, and the ACC was more of a finesse league. I wanted us to be more physical. At a team meeting I said we ought to go out there and throw some elbows. Coach Smith said, "No, we shouldn't. That's not the way to play the game." He was very competitive, but he wasn't win-at-all-costs.

MIKE O'KOREN, forward, 1976-80:
The halftime score at Duke in 1979 was 7-0, Duke. The game ended up 47-40—we played them even in the second half—and afterward reporters asked me about our decision to stall, and I said, "Personally I thought we should have played with them. He wanted to stall." Well, he saw that in the papers, and he told me that I should do the playing and he would do the coaching. So I had to put on the weighted vest and run pretty much all of practice. A week later we played Duke in the ACC championship and beat them [71-63].

JAMES WORTHY, forward, 1979-82:
He didn't allow players to wear beards. I had a skin problem and couldn't shave close, and I complained so much that he said, "O.K., if you get a doctor's note, I'll let you wear one." But if you look at the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cover in 1981, with Jimmy Black, myself, Matt Doherty, Sam Perkins and Coach Smith, I had to shave for that. He said, "Can you shave just this once?" So I shaved.

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