College Basketball Nation: Dean Smith
The Four Corners offense -- in which four players stand in the corners of the half court and stall while the point guard dribbles the ball in the middle -- wasn't invented by Dean Smith, but he was the most famous to use it.
It was often referred to as "Ford Corners" when Phil Ford was the Tar Heels' star in the 1970s, and its most effective use might have been when UNC beat Ralph Sampson's Virginia 47-45 in the 1982 ACC tournament final.
This was, of course, before the shot clock was introduced to college basketball in 1985. The Four Corners stalling tactics are useless these days, but they did make one glorious return Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill.
After a moment of silence, Carolina head coach Roy Williams held up four fingers and had his players (while wearing throwback jerseys) run the long-forgotten play on the team's first possession against Georgia Tech -- the Heels' first home game since the loss of the Four Corners' most successful coach. And you guessed it ... it worked.
And for good reason. They're always there. They're always loud. They're always prepared. And they always make it tough on opponents at the Petersen Events Center.
Well, almost always. There's no doubt the Pitt students let the North Carolina players hear it during Saturday's game between the Panthers and Tar Heels. But before the game? Before the game they were all class as the school held a moment of silence for the late Dean Smith, the legendary UNC coach who passed away a week ago Saturday.
This was Carolina's first game since Smith's death and during the moment of silence, members of the Oakland Zoo held up a banner with one of the coach's most endearing quotes: “You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.”
The moment was captured perfectly by North Carolina writer Adam Lucas.
Two more angles:
And after the game, the Oakland Zoo met with UNC coach Roy Williams.
We presented Roy Williams with a card signed by the Zoo honoring Dean Smith. Our thoughts are with the UNC community. pic.twitter.com/jRqWydR1p7— Oakland Zoo (@OaklandZoo) February 14, 2015
A simple but meaningful gesture. And another sign that the Oakland Zoo is one of the very best at what it does.
During the 1996-97 season, the Tar Heels began ACC play 0-3 for the first time ever. And the young squad that featured sophomores Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison were headed to a fourth loss, trailing NC State by nine points with 2:34 left in the game.
That's when Dean Smith worked his comeback magic in a way that not only saved the game, but turned around the season. Smith called timeout and from junior forward Makhtar Ndiaye's recollection, he didn't diagram any plays. Smith spent the entire huddle reaffirming players whose collective body language suggested they were ready to accept defeat.
"He said, 'It seems like I want this more than you guys want it,'" Ndiaye said. "We kind of looked at his face and he was very determined. We were like, shoot, we have to do something."
"The attention that he has and the way he looks into your eyes you have no choice but to believe," Jamison said. "When coach Smith says something was going to happen, it happened."
WIN No. 877
There was one thing that Smith absolutely didn't want to happen. When he became, at the time, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history, Smith wanted to sneak off to the locker room. The players all but forced him to stay out on the court.
"He was saying thank you, thank you, OK that's enough, let's get ready for next game," Carter said. "We were like forget that game, we were just part of history. It was like it meant more to us than him."
Ndiaye said Smith was more fun than the public knew, that's how he convinced the venerable coach to "raise the roof," after the game, which was a popular dance at the time.
"He had a lot of fun with our group, we got him a little bit out of his shell," Ndiaye said. "Those things are precious now when you look back."
THE LAST GAME
When Carolina lost to eventual national champion Arizona 66-58 in the Final Four, none of the players had any indication that it would be Smith's last game on the sideline. Quite the opposite, they left the floor in Indianapolis believing they would be back the next season to get Smith his third title.
"Yes we lost our opportunity to play for the national championship, but we felt like -- I know I did personally -- we let coach Smith down," Carter said. "Just for what he brought to the table for us and how he prepared us and we let him down and it was tough. To sit there and watch them celebrate it was just tough to swallow. And I sat there in disbelief."
But he sat there knowing the core of the team would be back and, with Smith's guidance, they could make it back to the Final Four. It's what fueled the Heels that summer and why Smith's next announcement would come as such a shock.
CALLING IT QUITS
The Tar Heels had just completed their traditional mile run outside on the track and Smith summoned them to the office in what they thought would be a routine discussion about the season. Smith singled out senior captains Shammond Williams and Ndiaye in the meeting room first and handed them both a note.
Ndiaye said the note thanked them for being great players and it urged them to lead the team and help assistant coach Bill Guthridge in his transition. To head coach.
"It was something that was difficult for him because he was always a man of his word and he didn't want to disappoint anyone," Williams said.
Carter said the players could sense something was wrong when assistant coaches Dave Hanners, Phil Ford and Guthridge all had solemn looks on their faces and Smith was "disheveled" and fumbled with the words as he started to speak.
"You could just tell by the look in his face not that he felt like he was letting us down, but he was just tired like he couldn't give any more," Jamison said. "Coach Smith was superman to us, to hear him say he couldn't do it anymore was devastating. It was like the last thing you expected to happen."
Doherty was still stung by what Dean Smith had told him during his recruiting visit. The former North Carolina coach, who passed away Saturday at the age of 83, had told Doherty that he’d be lucky to play as a junior, when other coaches recruiting him said he’d have an impact as a freshman.
Doherty was determined to prove Smith wrong and the jersey was his way of reminding the legendary coach of his talent. The two crossed paths when Smith happened to walk out of the office, and his words again stuck with Doherty.
“He saw me, he looked at my shirt, and says, ‘Ah, that’d be a nice shirt for your brother John to have,’” said Doherty, the starting small forward on the 1982 national championship team who also coached the Tar Heels from 2000-03. “In other words, that was old news. Everyone here is a McDonald’s All-American, get over yourself. You’ve got to earn your stripes here.”
Dean Smith’s teams were not designed to depend on how fast the freshman class could develop, although the opportunity was always there for freshmen to play.
King Rice arrived in Chapel Hill in 1987. It was the perfect opportunity to play immediately because Kenny Smith, a four-year starter, had just graduated. The Heels sorely needed a point guard and Rice had all the prep accolades to indicate he could take over at the position.
But he didn’t crack the starting lineup. Smith moved Jeff Lebo to point guard and started Ranzino Smith at shooting guard.
“Coach Smith basically said if you’re ready you’ll have a chance at Carolina,” said Rice, now the head coach at Monmouth. “But unfortunately, I was not ready. I was not even close to being ready.”
King had plenty of company. From 1972, the year the NCAA first allowed freshmen eligibility, until Smith’s retirement in 1997, only 11 freshmen started their first game for the Tar Heels. The list of four-year starters under Smith was an even more exclusive list of just eight players.
During Roy Williams’ 12-year tenure as North Carolina’s head coach, he has had 11 freshmen who started their first game, including in each of the past three seasons.
Freshmen under Smith lived a far less glamorous existence than their modern contemporaries. They had to carry luggage on team trips and line up last during water breaks and for pregame food buffets.
J.R. Reid, the 1988 ACC Rookie of the Year, said he even had to carry around a film projector “that they didn’t even use.” Shammond Williams, who played on three Final Four teams, said once he was made to run with an upperclassman who had missed a flight.
Running was a popular theme for freshmen. Whenever a ball went out of bounds during practice, the freshmen were responsible for chasing it down.
“He’d blow that whistle, yell, ‘freshmen,’ and we’d run and try to beat each other and be the first to get the ball,” said Antawn Jamison, the unanimous 1998 national player of the year. “We’d have bumps and bruises just from chasing loose balls into the bleachers.”
Jamison also recalled Jeff McInnis, a junior at the time, being a prankster and abusing the rule. McInnis would intentionally throw balls to the side just to make the freshmen chase them down.
Roy Williams used to carry on the same practice, but he figured it was easier to allow the managers to throw in a new ball to keep practice moving at a swift pace.
Smith also believed in the practice, that is continued by Williams and many other coaches, of not allowing freshmen to speak to the media until they’ve played in a game.
The irony is that the one-and-done era of college basketball has turned elite high school players into stars. More high school games are nationally televised now than during Smith’s tenure. And recruiting is covered so heavily that most players are polished in dealing with the media before they ever hit campus.
Imagine the reaction to Smith leaving Michael Jordan off the Sports Illustrated cover if it happened in today's environment.
The magazine picked the Tar Heels as the preseason No. 1 team to start the 1981-82 season. Sam Perkins, James Worthy, Jimmy Black and Doherty joined Smith on the cover shot.
“He knew Michael was going to start,” said Williams, who was an assistant on the ’82 national championship team. “But he didn’t think he’d done enough to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated, so he put four players on the cover.”
Jordan referenced the slight during his 2012 Hall of Fame induction speech as another log that fueled his competitive fire.
Reid viewed his freshman season in 1986-87 as a turning point for media coverage. He believed that was when high school sports were slowly gaining more attention nationally and it started contributing to a sense of entitlement among incoming freshmen.
“I understand him not really liking it that much and I got it in practice sometimes,” Reid said. “I could deal with it because I knew players that were probably better than me had to go through the same situation. This was the 'Carolina Way.' You had to have thick skin early on as a freshman.”
Vince Carter admitted he didn’t understand the process that Smith used to mold freshmen. He was as athletically gifted as any player Smith had recruited and he figured his physical traits would more than make up for the deficiencies in his game.
“I was like, 'Hey, I can get to the basket when I want. I can jump through, around or over anybody. Just let me do my thing,'” Carter said.
Carter, who was first-team All-America in 1997 and 1998, came to campus with hype that’s comparable to some of today’s elite freshmen. And when he didn’t immediately play, it led to rumors that Carter was planning to transfer to play for a coach who would let him do his thing.
Carter laughed at the notion of leaving, saying to this day he still didn’t know where the rumors started. But once he figured out Smith’s philosophy was to teach the game, he bought in to being patient.
“He was preparing me for that next level where there’s more athletes, now it’s time to outsmart your opponent and know the game a little better than the next man,” Carter said. “And it paid off for me.”
Carter described Smith as “demanding, stern, but patient at the same time,” with his freshmen. Neither Carter nor other former players believe that Smith would have changed had he coached in today’s environment.
Reid went so far to say Smith’s philosophies would be needed even more today to deal with potential egos. Reid said he didn’t appreciate it until he was older, but with the All-Americans and high-school-player-of-the-year types that Smith recruited, he had to find a way to break them down for the greater good of the team.
“You have to do something to humble them and let them know that there are people here that have done this before you, there are people here that have done it better than you have,” Reid said. “Coach Smith’s way was the only way.”
Since Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith's passing on Saturday, many of his former players and staffers at North Carolina have shared their countless experiences that have not all found their way to print. Here are a few more:
KEYS TO THE CAR
For a period in the 1990s, Dean Smith pledged to eat healthy foods. He had one weakness, though, and Chris Leevy Johnson, a team manager from 1992-96, was often asked to go by Merritt’s Store and Grill in Chapel Hill to deliver it.
Smith would hand over the keys to his dealer-issued 740 series BMW to Johnson, who was just a sophomore at the time.
"They had this superhuge BLT sandwich that he liked," said Johnson, who is now the team chaplain for South Carolina’s men’s basketball team. "My sophomore year, I worked in the office, as well as being a manager, and he would always sneak me out to get a BLT."
Johnson also recalled a final time when Smith asked him to drive his car. This was on the day he announced his retirement, in 1997. Johnson had already graduated and moved, but decided to come back for the news conference.
Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, a close friend of Smith’s, was also in attendance and needed a ride to the airport.
"As soon as it was over, Coach asked me to go get his car and drive it down in the tunnel because he had to take John Thompson back to the airport," Johnson said. "He was so elated that John Thompson would fly all the way down just for his press conference, it meant so much to him that he drove [Thompson] himself and I just rode with him. The media didn’t know, he got out of there as quickly as possible."
Matt Doherty took over as head coach of North Carolina in the midst of the 2000 presidential campaign that pitted George W. Bush against Al Gore. Basketball-related duties consumed most of his time, so he did as many former Tar Heels had the tendency to do when they had questions. He called Smith.
"I was so busy, and you try to read the newspapers and you couldn’t make heads or tails on who to vote for," Doherty said. "So I called up Coach Smith and said, 'Coach, I just wanted your insight on the election.'"
The conversation didn’t go exactly like Doherty envisioned. Normally, Smith presented pros and cons of both sides of an argument and let his players draw their own conclusion.
Not this time.
"So, basically, he was trying to talk me into voting for [Gore]," Doherty said. "I grew up Republican, but not very active -- I’m not very political. But it was just very funny that he was on the phone and basically trying to convince me to vote for the Democratic candidate."
WHAT’S IN A WORD
Hubert Davis, now an assistant coach at North Carolina, recalled the one time in four seasons he remembered Smith using the word "win."
Ironically, it came after losing to Roy Williams and Kansas in the 1991 Final Four. Official Pete Pavia hit Smith with a second technical foul, and he was ejected from the game with 35 seconds left.
"We were in a meeting, and he said, 'Guys, I apologize for getting kicked out of the game,'" Davis said. "'I just want to let you guys know that I felt like we were good enough to win the championship.'"
Smith showing confidence in his team despite their defeat created a strange mix of sadness with a tinge of pride. All because using the word "win" got everyone’s attention.
"All of us had our heads down, and as soon as he said 'win,' we all picked up our heads and started bawling -- me, Rick Fox, King Rice, Pete Chilcutt, George Lynch, Eric Montross -- because he never talked about winning," Davis said. "He always talked about preparation and the process. We were like, 'Coach Smith thought we were good enough to win.'"
JUST LIKE HE PLANNED
Smith won his share of buzzer-beaters through the years, and King Rice believes it was because he always stayed so calm.
So when the Tar Heels were tied with No. 1 seed Oklahoma in the 1990 NCAA tournament, Smith’s coolness prevailed in the huddle with 10 seconds left.
"He would tell us, 'This is going to happen, and Rick [Fox] is going to make this shot, be ready for an offensive rebound,," Rice said. "[Smith] was always the calm one."
Fox did make the shot at the buzzer, and Carolina advanced to its 10th straight Sweet 16.
Rice said that even when plays didn’t happen the way Smith drew them up, the end result was the same. Rice made a buzzer-beating shot to open the 1989-90 season with a Maui Invitational win over James Madison. The play was the same one that Smith used to beat Oklahoma.
"I was supposed to get the ball to Rick," Rice said. "I kind of stumbled a little bit and I did a spin move and I just threw it up and it went in."
Smith made winning look that easy.
WRATH OF DEAN
One of Smith’s biggest peeves was for a player to talk while he had the floor. J.R. Reid said it’d make Smith go "bananas."
"'J.R., when did you start talking when I’m talking? When did we start doing that here?'" Reid recalled Smith saying. "'Does that say the J.R. Reid Center out front? No. It’s the Dean E. Smith Center. You listen to what I say.'"
The rest of his teammates were holding in their laughter and finally let go once the practice was over and they could revisit it in the locker room.
Brian Reese had a bad habit of being so far behind the 3-point line on the corner that he stepped out of bounds. Eric Montross said instead of ripping Reese, Smith made his point more subtly.
"He said, ‘Brian, do they not have out-of-bounds lines in the Bronx?'" Montross said.
Montross said it was one of Smith’s more underappreciated qualities. Smith had a way of showing his authority without making his players feel small.
"He would never break us down in front of our peers because he knew that was something that needed to be protected," Montross said. "So he would deliver that message privately. The ways he dealt with us was so classy and yet it was tough."
- one ESPN the Magazine's Tommy Tomlinson detailed a year ago -- that robbed Smith of the domineering control he so effectively wielded in every aspect of his impact on UNC hoops and the lives of those around him. There have been many remembrances in the past 24 hours, from all corners of the sports world. Here at ESPN, Dana O'Neil wrote about the deep respect Smith inspired in even his most bitter rivals. Jay Bilas remembers, despite playing for UNC's "blood rival," how well Smith treated him away from the game. And reporting from Chapel Hill, C.L. Brown spent some time at Sutton's Drug Store Sunday morning, speaking with local residents about their memories of the man who dominated their local culture in the 20th century like no other: "Charles Gear, 55, was homeless at the time and was on Franklin Street talking with a friend about coming up short on a deposit for an apartment. Smith, who passed away late Saturday at the age of 83, overheard their conversation. 'Dean Smith came up and said I want to help you,' Gear said. 'He said how much do you need and he went to the [bank] teller and got $180 out of there. I thanked God first then I thanked him.'" On Sunday morning, the world learned it had lost one of the greatest men in the history of college basketball and American sports. Dean Smith passed away Saturday at the age of 83 after a long battle with dementia --
- Grantland's obituary of Smith, written by Charles P. Pierce -- who in 2000 authored a book about his own family's fight against dementia -- may be the most personal and affecting piece we've yet seen: "As part of the experience of [Ebenezer Baptist Church, which Pierce was visiting while covering the Final Four in Atlanta], recordings of sermons from both Reverend Kings are played in the sanctuary. Looking around, we saw a solitary figure sitting far in the back, his elbows on his knees and his hands folded. His eyes were closed. And he was listening to the recordings with great intensity. It was Dean Smith. I left him alone with his thoughts. He’d earned his private moments in this sacred space. ... As I grow older, I grow impatient with the impermanence of memory, with history now considered to be whatever came over your iPhone 15 minutes ago. It is inadequate to what we are. It truncates the collective memory, and that is never a good thing. We are each other’s stories, all of us. We keep other stories alive so we can be assured that ours will stay alive too. That is the most devastating thing that happens with the disease that took Smith’s life. If we’re not very careful, and if we don’t make sure to keep the memories we have that are lost to the person with the disease, it breaks that cycle of collective memory and we are all less for that. I learned that watching this disease invade my own family, and it is why I try so very hard to remember my father’s voice, even though it’s mainly lost to me now. So remember Dean Smith however you wish -- as a coach, as a teacher, as a reluctant celebrity, or as a friend. For me, I will remember him in the cool shadows of the sanctuary on a bright Easter morning, listening to the words of men long dead and gone. I remember him there now, for his sake and for my own. I remember him there in the small piece of a very sacred place that his life had earned."
- Finally, as someone who can't imagine attempting to understand the game of basketball without the help of advanced, tempo-free metrics, it is humbling to know that Smith was already developing the concept of per-possession efficiency as an assistant coach in the 1950s. John Gasaway calls Smith "the founding figure" of "quote-unquote advanced stats," while the Wall Street Journal's Ben Cohen goes into detail on how Smith's progressive, ahead-of-his-time outlook laid the foundation for our modern understanding of the game.
- Virginia's charnel house of a three-game ACC stretch ended with a rather impressive 2-1 record after Saturday night's 52-47 win over No. 9-ranked Louisville. There was bad news, though. On Monday, UVa coach Tony Bennett discussed star guard Justin Anderson's surgery to repair a fractured finger, an injury that could keep him out up to six weeks. (Meanwhile, Virginia's high-density image from Saturday's game is a fun little toy. Try to find the ESPN writer with the large head!)
- Iowa center Adam Woodbury poked another player (this time Maryland's Melo Trimble) in the eye Sunday, and Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery was not pleased with the quality of questions the incident inspired.
Dean Smith, who won 879 games and two national titles while leading North Carolina to 11 Final Fours in his 36 seasons in Chapel Hill, passed away Saturday evening at the age of 83.
When the news broke Sunday morning, the tributes came rolling in on Twitter.
Profoundly sad to learn of the passing of Dean Smith: http://t.co/R15smQgpeB One of the finest coaches and people in the history of sport.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) February 8, 2015
DEAN SMITH was so innovative-had a major impact on many coaches & those that played /coached 4 him May he RIP http://t.co/4UulUcHaYF— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 8, 2015
North Carolina announces passing of Dean Smith. The game, all of sports, has lost s great man— Dana O'Neil (@ESPNDanaOneil) February 8, 2015
Dean Smith died last night..sad sad news..admired him for many reasons mostly because he wasn't afraid..he stood up..RIP COACH SMITH— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) February 8, 2015
Sending my prayers and deepest sympathies to Dean Smith's family. May we celebrate the gift we all were given with his life.— Pat Summitt (@patsummitt) February 8, 2015
Just a sad day for basketball to lose one of the great coaches of all-time in Dean Smith.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 8, 2015
Dean Smith was the most innovative and player-loved coach of his time.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 8, 2015
Dean Smiths players loved him and respected him. Most didn't make a major decision in their lives without consulting him.— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) February 8, 2015
When we saw Smith, he didn't want to hear about our work for Jordan; wanted to know how we were helping his guys overseas, in CBA, etc.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) February 8, 2015
Not sure there's been any college coach connected to more coaches and players of influence than Dean Smith. Phog Allen to Michael Jordan.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) February 8, 2015
Statement from Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan on the Passing of Dean Smith pic.twitter.com/KC3tpvDu65— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 8, 2015
Thank you. pic.twitter.com/VJUfZy4Egw— Jordan (@Jumpman23) February 8, 2015
RIP to the legendary Coach Dean Smith. Thankful for all the things you stood for and believed in #CarolinaWay— Harrison Barnes (@hbarnes) February 8, 2015
Hate waking up to bad news. Sad day in Tar Heel family. RIP Coach Dean Smith.— Wayne Ellington (@WayneElli22) February 8, 2015
There are so many things I could say about Coach Dean Smith but simply put, he is the greatest man I've ever known. pic.twitter.com/tWaE2LPYpK— James Worthy (@JamesWorthy42) February 8, 2015
An originator of forming the game and helped change the world to give athletes like myself the opportunity to play at a great program— Danny Green (@DGreen_14) February 8, 2015
RIP to Dean Smith. So thankful for everything he did on and off the court. He will missed but never forgotten!— Marcus Paige (@marcuspaige5) February 8, 2015
Stuart Scott now has his all-time best with him to talk Tar Heels hoops. RIP, Dean Smith.— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) February 8, 2015
Landing to news that the great Dean Smith has passed. Honored to have played in the last game he ever coached!! Rest in Paradise Coach— Miles Simon (@milessimon) February 8, 2015
Just landed in DFW and heard sad news about Dean Smith. One of college basketball's defining figures in so many ways on & off the court.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) February 8, 2015
Very saddened to hear about Dean Smith's passing. I was a cub reporter in Raleigh his last season. He was a man of true integrity.— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 8, 2015
Thoughts and prayers to Smith family & UNC family on the passing of Dean Smith. Legendary coach. Courageous leader in civil rights.— Rece Davis (@ESPN_ReceDavis) February 8, 2015
The solace I take in this news is that a younger generation is going to learn a lot Dean Smith. His civil rights record for starters.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 8, 2015
Smith's career began in Jim Crow south. He brought an African American friend to a segregated restaurant. Recruited first black ACC player.— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) February 8, 2015
i'm not much for hero worship, but to only talk basketball with dean smith is to absolutely miss the point. truly larger than life.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) February 8, 2015
dean, basically, unilaterally decided to integrate acc basketball. dared someone to say no. no one did.— Bomani Jones (@bomani_jones) February 8, 2015
Dean Smith built a dominant program at UNC. He stood taller as a man, fighting for racial equality when it wasn't popular. RIP, Coach Smith.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) February 8, 2015
Few coaches have anything other than basketball in the first paragraph of their life story. Dean Smith did. He made sports a better place.— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) February 8, 2015
Had the privilege of sharing the CBS studio desk w/Dean Smith back in '98. Am better and richer as a man for the experience. #DeanSmith =O=O=O— Clark Kellogg (@ClarkKelloggCBS) February 8, 2015
Legendary Dean Smith passes. One of basketballs great innovators, offense and defense. Pray for his soul and his family. @CampusInsiders— Digger Phelps (@DiggerPhelps) February 8, 2015
Hard to articulate what it felt like walking into Cole on a cold winter night knowing your team had to face Dean Smith. He was a titan. RIP— Scott Van Pelt (@notthefakeSVP) February 8, 2015
When you read the next couple of days about the impact Dean Smith had outside of basketball, I think you will be amazed. An icon #RIP— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) February 8, 2015
Almost half the stuff I'm seeing is about Dean Smith's actions off the court. That's the sign of a truly impactful person. #RIPDeanSmith— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 8, 2015
many coaches care about their own legacies. Dean Smith cared about every person he knew.— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) February 8, 2015
RIP Dean Smith, basketball pioneer. His book: Basketball,Multiple Offense&Defense is likely 1st to introduce possession based analysis— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) February 8, 2015
Quote-unquote advanced stats would be impossible without the work Dean Smith did more than 50 years ago. He is the founding figure, period.— John Gasaway (@JohnGasaway) February 8, 2015
I know it surprised some people my brother Jim at NCSt and Dean at UNC got along well, but they did, and I was always proud of that. Legend.— Bob Valvano (@espnVshow) February 8, 2015
Two pictures I always loved, very appropriate for today... pic.twitter.com/qUc4XziPkI— Bob Valvano (@espnVshow) February 8, 2015
We're saddened to hear of the loss of Dean Smith - a tremendous coach and teacher, but an even better person. Condolences to the UNC family.— Duke Athletics (@Duke_ATHLETICS) February 8, 2015
Prayers to the family of the great Dean Smith. An iconic figure in the game of basketball. #RipDeanSmith— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) February 8, 2015
RIP Coach Dean Smith. Thoughts and prayers to his family and the @UNC_Basketball family. A one of a kind man and role model for all.— Steve Wojciechowski (@steve_wojo) February 8, 2015
Sad 2 hear about the passing of Dean Smith. It was an honor 2 compete against him. He was an all time great as a coach & person. Class Act!— Bobby Hurley (@BobbyHurley11) February 8, 2015
RIP Coach Dean Smith. A true Icon of our game and a great role model for all coaches. It was an honor to compete against his teams.— Chris Collins (@coach_collins) February 8, 2015
My prayers are w/ all of those whom were touched by the great Dean Smith. We both grew up in Kansas so I always followed him closely. RIP— Mark Fox (@coachmarkfox) February 8, 2015
game of basketball & life lost 1 of the gr8est teachers/mentors of all time. TY 4 impacting me from afar & helping so many. RIP Coach Smith— Frank Martin (@FrankMartin_SC) February 8, 2015
Prayers to Coach Smith's family first time I met him on a coaches trip treated me like gold didn't need to do that #RIP— Mark Gottfried (@Mark_Gottfried) February 8, 2015
Thank you Coach Smith for showing us how it should be done.— Mark Turgeon (@CoachTurgeon) February 8, 2015
We lost a great man in passing of Coach Smith last night. No one has impacted our game more and with total class. Great coach but better man— Bill Self (@CoachBillSelf) February 8, 2015
- "Dean Smith doesn't watch the games anymore. The motion on the screen is too hard to follow. Now he thumbs through golf magazines and picture books. Most of the books are about North Carolina basketball. They seem to make him happy. He turns the pages past photo after photo of himself. Nobody knows if he knows who he is. Music seems to make him happy, too. About a year and a half ago, a friend named Billy Barnes came over to the house to play guitar and sing a few songs. Barnes played old Baptist hymns and barbershop quartet tunes -- Daisy Daisy, give me your answer true. Music he knew Dean liked. But nothing seemed to get through. Dean was getting restless. Barnes asked if he could play one more song. After every basketball game, win or lose, the UNC band plays the alma mater and fight song. The Carolina people stand and sing. Barnes knew Dean had heard the song thousands of times. He started to play. Dean jumped to his feet. He waved at his wife, Linnea, to stand with him. He put his hand over his heart and sang from memory ..." Tommy Tomlinson's special-to-ESPN.com feature on UNC legend Dean Smith's battle with dementia is the one thing you need to read today.
- "SMU's Larry Brown, a Hall of Famer with 1,198 NBA coaching wins, strongly disagreed with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's suggestion that elite prospects would be better prepared for the NBA by playing in the D-League instead of spending one season in college. 'I admire him and I think he's one of the bright guys we have in our profession, but that was the worst thing I heard,' Brown, who has won titles in college and the NBA, said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. 'They don't teach guys how to play, in my mind,' Brown said of the D-League. 'The head coaches in the NBA and a lot of the assistants do, but [college basketball] is the greatest minor league system in the world. If you didn't go to one class and just live in a college environment, then you're way ahead. And I think most coaches are responsible enough to make them go to class, make them go to study hall, give them life lessons. How about being around [SMU assistants] Eric Snow and George Lynch? Those two guys played 13, 14 years in the league, have families, are successful. In all honesty, I love Mark, but [college basketball] is pretty good. Now, it's our job to make [players] realize getting an education is something that's important, because here's the deal: Life after basketball is a real long time.'"
- VCU unveiled its new branding, logos and signage on Wednesday. Looks good, right?
- SI.com's Seth Davis offers up some conference POY nominations.
- Maryland forward Charles Mitchell's status is unclear after he got into a heated exchange with the Terrapins' coaching staff in Tuesday night's game against Virginia Tech. Mark Turgeon asked Mitchell to leave the bench just before halftime, and Mitchell spent most of the second half in the locker room with assistant coach Juan Dixon before returning to the sideline late in the game wearing warmups. Turgeon told Washington Post reporter Alex Prewitt that he met with Mitchell and would "sleep on it." A banner season in College Park marches on.
ESPN.com reporters Eamonn Brennan, Mryon Medcalf and C.L. Brown join host Chantel Jennings to discuss the biggest bubble battles, Kansas without Joel Embiid, legendary North Carolina coach Dean Smith’s health and more from the last week of the regular season.
2. The Sun Belt played its conference tournament title game on the Monday of Championship Week last season. But the Sun Belt wanted to have more exposure and a significant platform. The league announced it will host its title game on Selection Sunday on ESPN2. This is great news for exposure for the league. But it could cause another headache for the selection committee and possibly for the winner. The committee can't control when conferences schedule title games but if it were up to them there wouldn't be title games on Sunday. The committee has to deal with too many scenarios on Selection Sunday with winners and losers possibly affecting seeding and bracketing. The Sun Belt has gained exposure, but we'll have to wait and see if it sacrificed its seed by forcing the committee to hold a spot for the winner or a possible at-large team.
3. The Big 12 made the right call in having Kansas and Oklahoma State play on March 1 -- in Stillwater -- in what should be one of the best atmospheres and showdowns next season. KU and OSU should dominate the landscape on that day. This would give the focus to the Big 12 with Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart headlining the game. Like it or not, Duke-North Carolina the ensuing weekend usually draws a lot of attention. If KU-OSU were opposite that game there's a good chance it would still be the game of the day based on preseason projections. But this way there is no debate with Kansas and Oklahoma State on a separate weekend.
Here's a stat-based summary of Duke's triumph:
What the victory meant for Duke
The Blue Devils reached the 25-win mark for the sixth consecutive season.
They improved to 4-0 against top-five teams this season, the first team to start 4-0 against top-five foes since the 1991-92 USC Trojans.
They also won their fourth top-five matchup in a row at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The past 14 times Duke has had a home game immediately following a road loss, the Blue Devils have bounced back with a win.
Kelly made the most of his minutes in his return to the Blue Devils lineup, netting 36 points and seven rebounds.
He’s the first player to hit those plateaus in a game for Duke since Jon Scheyer had 36 points and eight rebounds in a win over Gardner-Webb in December 2009.
The Blue Devils are 16-0 with Kelly, 9-4 without him (0-2 against top-25 teams).
The big difference comes in what Duke allows. The Blue Devils yield 61.3 points per game when Kelly is in the lineup, 70.7 when he does not play.
Kelly scored 23 points on shots from at least 15 feet out -- one more point than Miami scored from that distance for the game.
Key stat: catch-and-shoot
The Blue Devils went 3-for-20 on catch-and-shoot shot attempts in their first meeting with Miami. They were 9-for-21 in this game, thanks largely to Kelly, who was 7-for-9 on such shots, including 6-for-8 from 3-point range.
Coach K reaches a milestone
Mike Krzyzewski won his 879th game at Duke, tying former North Carolina coach Dean Smith for the second-most wins by a coach at a school. Jim Boeheim has the most -- 912 at Syracuse.
According to nuggets.com, about 20 coaches were in attendance representing schools including Colorado, Colorado State, Denver, Northern Colorado -- with Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt making the drive from Laramie.
Karl, one of just seven coaches in NBA history to win 1,000 regular-season games, has always been an advocate of giving back to the game. It is a tenet of "The Carolina Way" taught by Hall of Fame North Carolina coach Dean Smith.
"Probably twice a year, Coach always said go back and thank someone who helped you," said Karl, who played for Smith from 1969-73. "Make sure you touch someone through the game of basketball. That message sticks with you."
For two days, Karl and the Nuggets generously shared knowledge, watched film and talked about offense and pick-and-roll strategies with their college counterparts at the Pepsi Center workshop.
The outreach program was about building relationships and giving back to the basketball community. The college coaches soaked up information they can now take back to their own players.
"The NBA's different, but in of respects, it's the same," Denver coach Joe Scott said. "Basketball's basketball. We got together and talked about offense and the Nuggets' offense and the Nuggets' ideas and principles offensively...There's a lot of things that they do that we already do, and it's just a matter of, 'How do you implement some of those things into what we do.'
"It was actually a little bit of validation for us to go down there and say, "Hey, these are some of the same things we've been talking about doing."
There are five seconds left in a tie game. Your opponent has the ball. What coach would you most worry about diagramming the last play?
Rick Barnes, Texas: Dean Smith. “No question. He was a great situation guy.’’
Mark Fox, Georgia: “It’s the guy with the best players. I don’t care what the play is.’’
Darrin Horn, South Carolina: “It’s about the players, not the pen. Whoever has the best players wins.’’
Ben Howland, UCLA: Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim or Jim Calhoun. “Those three guys have been through just about every situation you can imagine.’’
Bob Huggins, West Virginia: Rick Pitino. “I think he’s a pretty good coach but I also think he inspires confidence in his players and that’s so important in those end-game situations.’’
Tom Izzo, Michigan State: Mike Krzyzewski. “He’s been doing this a long time and his track record speaks for itself. Plus he can say, ‘Eenie, meenie, miney mo and pick the guy who will beat you.’’
Kerry Keating, Santa Clara: Eric Reveno. “He went to Stanford. He has three degrees. One of them has to help him come up with a good endgame play.’’
Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph’s: The tree of Thad Matta. “Matta, Sean Miller, Chris Mack. They have so many plays that they can cover just about anything.’’
Fran McCaffery, Iowa: Tom Izzo. “He runs really good late-game stuff. You have to be concise with your switching and your trapping.’’
Josh Pastner, Memphis: John Calipari. “In those situations you have to be quick with your thinking and he really is. He grabs the board and draws up something immediately. It’s a gift, really.’’ Pastner also named Jeff Van Gundy.
Rick Pitino, Louisville: Dean Smith. “He was a great timeout guy. He lived for that. Plus he had great players. Who do you want, Jordan or Worthy to beat you?”
Mark Turgeon, Maryland: John Beilein. “He’s a terrific X's and O's guy.’’
Bruce Weber, Illinois: Kevin Stallings. “I coached with him and I know how good he is. I always say he’s an offensive genius.’’
Roy Williams, North Carolina: Dean Smith. “We practiced it every day. There was nothing we could face that he hadn’t practiced, so when it happened you were ready.’’
Jay Wright, Villanova: John Beilein. “I know he lives and dies by the 3 but he’d also have an option, a guy driving to the rim. He wouldn’t go to a player but to a play.’’
In public, though, Coach K has done his best to keep the milestone talk to a minimum, and that included his comments after last night's win, which were pitch-perfect in their perspective and humility. From FanHouse:
"I don't want to make it sound less than what it is, but number of wins, you have to be healthy, you have to have really good players, you have to have commitment from your school,'' Krzyzewski said. "So, I don't know if that's as much an achievement as much as the result of having all those things. And so I'm not going to look at this as an achievement. When you win a championship ... those are achievements. The number of wins, you have to win a certain number of games -- especially the last one -- to get an achievement.''
That's pretty nice stuff. And in a way, Coach K isn't just blowing smoke. Wins are one way to quantify a coach's career, and the all-time coaching wins leaders list comprises a who's who of legendary coaches in the sport. But they're not the be-all and end-all of coaching greatness. At some point, sheer longevity factors in. No one would question John Wooden's place among the greatest coaches of all-time because his wins total isn't in the high 800s.
But when you combine that longevity with consistent excellence, you get Bob Knight. You get Dean Smith. And you get Coach K.