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Happy 80th Birthday, Dean Smith

Happy 80th birthday to the legend that is University of North Carolina basketball, Dean Edwards Smith, and a classy move by Maryland’s Gary Williams to mention it during last night’s post-game.

As time passes, Smith has lost or will lose a number of his individual records, but his impact on the college game endures. Whether it is his on-court innovations like the run-and-jump defense and Four Corners, or his off-court work for social justice and the racial integration of Chapel Hill and college sports in general, other coaches may win more games or more titles, but none were as influential as Smith.

Particularly amazing about Dean Smith was that, in spite of fame, fortune, national titles, and one of the country’s largest arenas bearing his name, he never lost the personal touch that endeared him to so many people. He was famous for his prolific letter- and card-writing, often congratulating players on their accomplishments or remembering their children’s birthdays. And his caring in this area went beyond those in the basketball family, as I was twice the recipient of correspondence from Dean Smith that went above and beyond the call of respect and kindness.

Congratulations to the Dean of College Basketball!

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22 comments to Happy 80th Birthday, Dean Smith

  • Indeed, happy birthday to the most beloved figure in college basketball.

    Dean Smith exemplifies class and dignity just as much as he does winning.

  • marcus62660

    A life that exemplifies the true meaning of “do the right thing.” I strive to be half the man that Dean Smith is.

  • Stratplans

    Happy birthday to a great coach and and an even greater human being.

  • 850inExile aka UNC RAJ

    Coach Smith is a case study for how to achieve real success - the kind that is accompanied by class, dignity and always adhering to strict ethical standards. We need more leaders like Coach Smith.

    Happy Birthday Coach Smith!

  • Wilf

    Happy Birthday Coach. You are one of a kind.

  • Ron

    Coach Smith’s records may fall in time but the legacy he leaves will never be overshadowed. When you think of “the Carolina way” you think Dean Smith.

    Happy 80th birthday Coach Smith, may God bless.

  • nativeheel

    Happy Birthday, Mr Dean Smith. He is the face, the heart and the soul of Carolina Basketball. All is well.

  • PRGuy

    Yes, I’m biased but I believe Dean was a more innovative and gracious coach than K. And winning Olympic gold in 1976 with college kids after the debacle of the 1972 loss to the USSR is a greater accomplishment than winning Olympic gold with NBA all-stars. I respect K, but I respect and admire Dean. Happy birthday, Coach.

  • MakhtarsMusings

    All the best to the best! The great Dean of coaching!

  • CastleMadeOfTar

    My favorite Dean Smith story of all time comes from the book Playing for Keeps by David Halberstam. (A must-read - if ONLY for the two chapters on Michael Jordan’s years at UNC.)

    It was during the legendary final game against Georgetown in MJ’s freshman year. Apparently, in those tense moments during the time-out before MJ made the shot - Dean Smith was charting out the play and you could barely hear him speak because the crowd was so loud. In the middle of the tension and the coaching and the shouting, he took a long moment, looked at all the players, and said with a big grin, “Isn’t this fun?”

    I tell that story to all of my clients when anything gets tough in their businesses - or whenever. It’s a great way to live life.

    And even this season - it all its crazy ups and downs - it’s so much fun!

    And how awesome is it to have TarHeelFanBlog as a place to meet up and find someone who shares your excitement when John Henson makes six free throws without missing or to moan when Watts comes in for Barnes after only four minutes? Isn’t this FUN???

    Happy Birthday Dean Smith!

  • OldSchool

    As good as it gets. Among the very best to ever coach the game. Thanks, Coach Smith, for all the memories.

    Interesting quote from the ACC Sports Journal: “When Barnes scores 17 or more, the Tar Heels are 8-0.” The Black Falcon is slowly growing into the star player we all hoped for. Keep scoring HB…you just might lead us back to the Final Four.

  • TarheelCuz

    The Carolina Way is the Dean Smith Way-

    Happy Birthday Sir!

  • partsman5521

    That one picture kind of said it all. One of the greatest athletes ever, giving some love to one of the greatest coaches ever. And to think that Dean was a better teacher of life and family as he was a basketball coach. My hats off to you sir. Happy birthday…..

  • LarryP

    Happy Birthday Coach.
    Doc mentioned that Gary Williams spoke in his post-game press conference about Coach Smith. I’m also reminded of Lute Olsen of Arizona a couple of years ago after his Wildcats were blown out in the Smith Center. He took time in his post-game comments to give glowing credit to the class of the University and the treatment he and his team were shown. I can’t help but think that all came down from Dean Smith. He’s left a legacy that we should all protect vigorously.

  • rathskellar68

    UNC RAJ -

    “Coach Smith is a case study for how to achieve real success – the kind that is accompanied by class, dignity and always adhering to strict ethical standards. We need more leaders like Coach Smith.”

    Spot on. If you want to figure out the right thing to do, on the court or off, the place to start is by asking, “What would Dean Smith do?”

  • i remember sitting in the men’s soccer locker room in 2001 the night before the ncaa’s started, and our coach (bolowich) sat us down and opened a letter that read (something to the effect of): “congratulations on a great season, that chapter is closed and now the second season begins. play each game like it is your last, and best of luck”.

    signed, Dean Smith

    we were all stunned and in awe of the magnitude that one simple, and thoughtful gesture could have on our group. It was like we instantly could feel something bigger, to the point that it still gives me goosebumps to reply our coach reading the line “signed, coach dean smith”. To have been touched by someone of Coach Smith’s stature was an incredible moment for myself and each of my teammates, and it really epitomized the culture of character and family that is the Carolina Way.

    that’s just one small example of probably 1000′s of times coach smith took the time to make others feel important, special, relevant, (insert positive adjective here).

    we’re lucky to have had such a pillar (of the sport and of character) to represent our university. happy birthday coach smith!

  • ugatarheel

    Aside from my grandfathers whom I loved and admired and respected with all my heart there are three men that I have always looked up to as role models of how one should live their life. They are Tom Landry, Robert E Lee, and Dean Smith. They all embodied the words leadership, integrity, dignity, and class. They all excelled at getting others to reach their maximum potential, and they all were sterling examples of how to live your life with respect for yourself and for those around you. In short they were all the very definition of patriarchs and I can only hope that I can be even half as a good a person as they were.

  • CalebElias1

    Happy Birthday Coach Smith. You are the reason many of us are Tarheels. My dad would get me out of school early back when I was young just to watch tarheel basketball and I have loved them every since. Thanks Coach for all you did. May God bless you and keep you.

  • Congratulations and Happy Birthday Coach Smith, you are standard by which we are all measured.

  • Heel To The End

    Happy Birthday, Coach Smith! We love you.

    and a belated Happy Birthday to James Worthy, who turned 50 yesterday.
    for those of us that were in school when he was….my goodness, where has the time gone?

  • uncgirl50

    Coach Smith you are truely the Dean of college basketball. Generations of UNC fans and college basketball fans alike will know of your endless accomplishments. The Tar Heel Nation will always remember you as the greatest and classiest coach that has ever coached. We are so grateful to you for being our coach.

    Happy Birthday Coach Smith, we love you!

  • smallandpettypat

    I think Coach and MJ are subtly poking fun at Roy with the ugly jackets.

    Happy birthday Coach Smith. One of the best, brightest, and classiest of all time.