Two weeks after legendary North Carolina men’s basketball coach Dean Smith died, thousands gathered for a public memorial service in the Dean E. Smith Center — a building named in his honor, but one which he actually wanted to be called the Student Activities Center.
On a stage erected in front of the student section, several of his closest mentees returned to show their loyalty by sharing memories and stories about their mentor. Longtime voice of the Tar Heels Woody Durham introduced them one by one.
“You talk about loyalty, I’ve never seen a man on the face of the Earth more loyal than him,” said Phil Ford, who played for Smith in the 1970s, the staple of the coach’s trademark Four Corner offense. “If there’s a model of how we should live our lives, we should look no further than Coach’s life.”
Mickey Bell played with Ford in the 1970s. He recalled the only moment when Smith told him the word “no.” It happened when Bell jokingly asked the coach if he could take the reins from Ford in Four Corners.
Bell knew he could never say no to speaking at the service.
“Coach Smith never said no to any of the requests I said to him,” he said. “He coached you how to be a basketball player for four years. He coached you how to be a man for a lifetime.”