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Former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Dean Smith was one of the most successful coaches ever to hold a whistle. In his 36-years at North Carolina, his teams won a record 879 games. They also captured two national championships, claimed 30 seasons with at least 20 wins, and made 11 Final Four appearances. Coach Smith developed 26 consensus All-Americans, five NBA rookies of the year (including the great Michael Jordan), and 25 first-round draft picks.
But Smith’s basketball accomplishments tell only part of his story. Dean Smith: A Basketball Life is the definitive biography of the legendary coach. You may not know that Smith worked to abolish the death penalty in North Carolina and openly supported gay rights. In 1949, five years before the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, he pleaded in vain with officials to include African-American players on the school’s basketball team. Sixteen years later, after completing his fourth season as the head coach at North Carolina, Smith ventured to New York City and came back to Chapel Hill with Charlie Scott, the most significant recruit of his tenure. Scott became the school’s first African-American scholarship recipient and he integrated major college basketball in the South.
Smith passed away in February 2015, and it is now time to take stock of this extraordinary man whose ideas and philosophies have shaped the best of what college basketball has been and should aspire to be in the future.