SI Vault
 
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
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
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

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

In the early 1990s our church went through a very painful crisis. A senior at Duke Divinity School asked to be ordained and indicated he was gay. This fractured the congregation. The church did the right thing, licensing him to preach as a seminarian. We lost some members, but Dean didn't waver in his support. He wasn't involved in the debate, but he was there, and he was visible.

He's always been willing to take a stand. Back when we all had nuclear arms hanging over our heads, he was willing to go public in support of the abolition of nuclear weapons. I'm now chairman of a statewide group called People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, and he was the first to volunteer that his name be used up front.

JAMES WORTHY:
There's no question I had my little obstacle to overcome in Houston [when he was arrested for soliciting prostitution in 1990]. Coach Smith was the second person to call me, and he said, "We're all human. I know you're a great man. Just deal with it as a man."

AT THE TOP AND STEPPING DOWN
"Good men plan"

Smith broke Rupp's record on March 15, 1997, with his 877th career victory, a second-round NCAA tournament defeat of Colorado in Winston-Salem. He deflected credit, choosing instead to dedicate the achievement to those who had come through his program. When he retired the following fall, he did so in a way just as mindful of his basketball family, waiting until the eve of fall practice to ensure that the job would go to his aide of 30 years, Bill Guthridge.

Smith is left with a wealth of memories, which, given his astonishing powers of recall and nearly 67 years to cull from, will serve him well.

MARILYN TOWLER ROBERTS:
I talked to him a few months ago, and he said, "You sound just like your mother." And I thought to myself, How could he remember what my mother sounded like? She's been gone for more than 20 years. Before he hung up he said, "Your birthday's on the 29th. Happy birthday."

BILL GUTHRIDGE, assistant, 1967-97:
One of our recruits my first year was Steve Previs, a guard from Bethel Park, right outside Pittsburgh. Dean and I had been there once in the fall to visit Steve, who lived in this subdivision with a maze of streets. We went back in the spring, and Dean made 10 or 15 turns, right to the house. There were five guys in that recruiting class, and I have no doubt he could drive back to the homes of any of them today.

LARRY BROWN, former player (1961-63) and assistant coach (1965-67):
A few years ago, during one of those times when we all come back to visit him over the summer, he talked to [former Tar Heels assistant coach] Eddie [Fogler] and Roy [Williams] and me about the possibility that he might step down before he broke the record. He knew there'd be all the media attention, and he didn't want it. All of us made a pact that we wouldn't let him step down.

KRISTEN SMITH, daughter and a North Carolina freshman:

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9