The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday June 2nd

Letter: Remembrances of Coach Dean Smith


I met the man only once. I tried to explain to him that the day he retired, my mother and I sat at our kitchen table and cried. In the telling, I began to tear up. He took my hand, patted it and told me how much he appreciated the thought.

My earliest memory from childhood is the win over Georgetown ... My house exploded in cheers; the phone didn’t stop ringing and my family was over the moon. I feel like I’ve lost a family member.

Mary Shannon Thomas

Class of ’10


It seems like yesterday I was standing in an impossibly long line to get Dean Smith to sign a book and have a photo taken. Those five to ten seconds with the UNC legend, especially for a 20-year-old undergrad like myself, was well worth the many hours spent in a slowly moving line in the Student Store. Even with all the signing and photos he had already taken, he was kind and took the time to speak personally to me.
That and the on court/off court stories I have heard my whole life have contributed to my deep respect, pride, and honor...not only in my alma mater, but in the man that exemplifies all that we (as Tar Heels) wish to be when we leave our Chapel Hill home.
I think we all feel a loss today, maybe because we know that what we saw in this person is what we want to see in ourselves. Maybe we feel it's a little less impossible because of his shining example and we are a little sad he isn't here to remind us.

Jennifer Delamar-Goss

Class of 2002


When my mom decided to come to Carolina for graduate school in the 80's, her brother asked her if she knew who Dean Smith was. She said no; he said she’d have no friends. My brother made similar jokes when I chose UNC. My childhood was full of Carolina hoops traditions, but I rarely watched a game. My parents said I’d become a basketball fan at UNC. I laughed at them.

I'm not quite sure how it happened, but sometime freshman year, their prediction came true. Suddenly it was March 2012 and I had a #5 written on my wrist.

Three years later, I'm even more in love with the Carolina basketball family. I love it for the players who (though taller and more talented) are Carolina students just like me. I love it for the chance to celebrate after wins, and for the comfort of the Carolina family after losses.

I am eternally grateful for that family, just as I am eternally grateful for the man who created it. Thank you, Coach Smith.

Samantha M. Harrington
University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill

It was the Sunday night after we had went to Clemson and got our butts handed to us by the Tree Rollins Tigers on Saturday night.

I was walking out the front entrance of Granville West coming in was Coach Smith. He spoke but it was obvious that he was pissed.

The basketball team lived on the third floor.

That week you could have heard a pin drop on third floor. The next game we kicked butt.

I have no idea what was said, but he put the fear of Dean Smith in the players and everyone else on third floor.

Stephen Zandy

Class of '78


Humble and fierce, Coach Dean Smith opened wide the eyes of a South unwilling to see beyond the color of a person's skin, and then helped the masses to embrace our collective humanity. A quiet man with a larger than life presence and a belief in the priority and imperative of social justice, he embodied and helped shape the spirit of UNC--a spirit we are now called to protect, with his same fierceness and courage. Godspeed, Coach--and keep an eye on us, would ya?

Kaaren Haldeman


PhD '06 


There’s a compelling argument that Dean Smith did more for the value of my degree from UNC than any other single person.

The basketball teams he coached brought prestige to the University, attracting an incalculable number of students who might not otherwise have applied, making admission to UNC extremely competitive. He improved the social fabric of Chapel Hill and North Carolina in a way that wins and losses could never measure but which hoisted the reputation of the school to even greater heights.

While recent events may have diminished some of the intangible values Coach Smith’s work attached to every degree bestowed by UNC, this much is certain: Dean Smith is undiminished.

Leo J. Carmody Jr.

Class of ’96


Coach Smith was, by all measures, a fantastic coach, innovator and leader of young men. But most importantly, he always stood up for what he considered to be right, especially if it went against popular opinion. He wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers; racially integrating his team in 1966, taking his players to meet prison inmates to challenge perspectives or advocating against the death penalty (and famously calling former Governor Jim Hunt a “murderer”).

It is a mind-boggling realization that there will be freshmen at Carolina next year who were born after Coach Smith retired. As such, it is our responsibility to ensure that his impact remains more than the name on a stadium (after all, he wanted it named after the players: “I never scored a single point!”).

It’s our job to ruffle feathers now. We must carry on Coach Smith’s legacy and seek out opportunities to stand against injustice, while staying humble in our efforts. As Coach said, “You should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do what’s right.” That’s the true meaning of The Carolina Way.

Coach Smith would be proud, however, of the innumerable lives he has influenced over the years. After dementia cruelly stripped his remarkable memory and faculties, we hope his family can find solace in tributes from all over the world as he rests peacefully. And we can all take comfort knowing Coach has quite the welcoming party waiting for him in Blue Heaven.

Moazzum Bajwa

Class of ’08


Coach Smith came to our room in 1971. It was 108 Lewis. He was recruiting two fellows from Ohio named Ed Stahl and Brad Hoffman.

My roommate and I were from Columbus, and Coach spoke with us for 20 minutes. Fast forward to 2003, and I got to play with him in the Carolina Kids Classic at Finley Golf Course.

Coach walks up to me on the first tee to introduce himself, and when I say my name, he recounts the above story with names, dates and times precisely — even our dorm room.

What a spectacular memory but more just a genuinely caring, nice man! Thanks, Coach!

Rick Zollinger

Class of ’73


R.I.P., Coach Dean Smith. The Carolina family mourns with your family. I personally am so glad that you were the bedrock of Carolina basketball for so many years, and the years I was at UNC, and following after we moved back here in 1987. I know your former players must be especially sad. I know your legacy will help the UNC community with the current challenges. Let your accomplishments and integrity be an inspiration to players, students, faculty, alumni and all fans.

Frances Schaefer

Class of ’82


Some call him the greatest coach in college basketball. Some consider him a revolutionary in the game. To the Carolina family, Dean Smith was a legend and friend. You will be missed, friend.

Joey Schwind




Dean Smith will be remembered for his relentless commitment to selflessness and teamwork. His emphasis on pointing to the man who dished the assist is a representation of his outlook on life itself. Dean Smith was more than a coach, he was the embodiment of the Carolina Way. He will be remembered for teaching us that life is the most important team sport.

Logan Judy


Political Science and Peace, War and Defense

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