Dean Smith’s Final Gift


By: Connor Lenahan

Dean Smith was only the coach of the University of North Carolina for three years of my life. Specifically the first three years, 1994-1997. I, sadly, did not get to enjoy the tenure of one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time during my life time. I am lucky in that I have lived through coaches like Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, and Mike Krzyzewski and watched their teams succeed. But, for reasons that have never become clear in my mind, I have always respected Coach Smith. This man has struck me as nothing but honorable by every story that has been shared about him whether it be by former coaches or players that knew him. He seemed like a man I would want to play for had I been a basketball recruit in another life.

Dean Smith passed last month at the age of 83. It wasn’t until today that a new story and, subsequently, a new reason to respect the man emerged. Smith’s will stipulated that each of the over 180 lettermen that he coached while at the helm of the Tar Heels would receive $200 from his estate. The money came with a letter urging the players to enjoy a nice meal on their coach.

It’s not the money that matters here. It’s the gesture itself. My favorite coaches in the world, regardless of sport, are the ones that care deeply about their players. In my own experience, the teachers I have respected the most are those that look after their students most often. When in the role that Coach Smith was in he was able to mold some of the greatest basketball players of all time – lest we forget that this was Michael Jordan’s college coach. To make sure that each of his players knew that he cared about him, even as he left this earth, is nothing short of heartwarming.

There are great people out in this world. Every once in a while there is a need to see something that brings a smile to your face, an act of kindness that reminds you that great things and wonderful souls surround us. Dean Smith’s final act as a coach is one of the best examples of that. A man who really, truly cared about his players. Dean Smith was a great soul, and today was only further proof.