We lost a beloved member of our family Saturday night. Dean Smith, former head basketball coach at Carolina, died at the age of 83.
I am one of those Tar Heels who grew up knowing Coach Smith as the only coach of our beloved basketball team. I was born in 1962 while my father was a law student at UNC. My mother was a rabid Carolina basketball fan and I have very early memories of my polite southern mother cursing like a drunken sailor during the games.
Our lullabies consisted of Carolina fight songs and even as very young children we could chant, "Go to hell State!" with the best of them. My brothers and I were raised to love Carolina basketball. My oldest brother attended the Dean Smith basketball camp where we recognized the names of the men who were teaching at the camp from past Carolina teams.
When it was time for me to decide on a college, there was only one choice. I was destined to be a Tar Heel. I was a sophomore when Dean Smith won his first National Championship. Memories of that season are among my favorite. I will never forget racing to Franklin street from my sorority house coming from one direction and almost immediately running into my older brother racing in from another direction. I still have the tee shirt I was wearing that night. It is spattered in blue paint.
Dean Smith was an honorary member of every Carolina family. We respected him. We admired him. We loved him. I think deep within every Carolina fan's heart is the desire to live life with the same integrity demonstrated by this humble man.
Some coaches will be remembered for their win-loss record, some for their on-court antics, still others for inspirational quotes. Dean Smith will be remembered for the way he lived his life off the court. He will be remembered for the love he showed his players and their families. He will be remembered for his emphasis on education, equality, and justice. He will be remembered because his lessons reached far beyond the players he coached.
Rest in peace, Coach. We love you.