Floating a Lotus Flower at the Erawan Museum in Bangkok, Thailand

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Not Just About Basketball

 Dean Smith with new recruit, Michael Jordan
 
 
“Last night, America lost not just a coaching legend but a gentleman and a citizen,” President Obama said in a statement. “When he retired, Dean Smith had won more games than any other college basketball coach in history. He went to 11 Final Fours, won two national titles, and reared a generation of players who went on to even better things elsewhere, including a young man named Michael Jordan – and all of us from Chicago are thankful for that.

“But more importantly, Coach Smith showed us something that I’ve seen again and again on the court – that basketball can tell us a lot more about who you are than a jump shot alone ever could. He graduated more than 96 percent of his players and taught his teams to point to the teammate who passed them the ball after a basket. He pushed forward the Civil Rights movement, recruiting the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helping to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill. And in his final years, Coach Smith showed us how to fight an illness with courage and dignity. For all of that, I couldn’t have been prouder to honor Coach Smith with Medal of Freedom in 2013."   - source

I remember at an Auburn-Kentucky basketball game when I was kid - right after the game or just before it, when we were in a tunnel hallway - my dad said, "Kentucky's old coach, Adolph Rupp, said he would never coach a black player."  At my tender age, I thought, "That's weird."  How Dean Smith stood in contrast to Rupp and others is pretty incredible.  His moral courage, in the South, when so many people were quiet, passive or even resistant in the midst of necessary changes, speaks volumes.

Charlie Scott & Dean Smith

If you love basketball and history, this short interview (here) with former Carolina Tar Heel, Charlie Scott, is outstanding.  It made me respect Dean Smith in more ways than just being a coaching legend.  When lots of people were silent (or worse) on the social changes that were taking place in the '50s and '60s,the Dean of Carolina basketball took a stand, on the court and off.

This blog post is dedicated to my cousin Bill Vann and his late father (my great-uncle), Felix "Bumps" Vann, two of the biggest Tar Heel fans!

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