Dean's way Basketball record: Smith's players not only win with fundamentals, they graduate.

March 18, 1997

SO NOW DEAN SMITH stands alone as college basketball's all-time winning coach -- 877 after this weekend and a solid shot at taking his North Carolina team to the NCAA Final Four. But perhaps even more amazing than Coach Smith's winning record is the way he has achieved it.

A Dean Smith team isn't flashy. It isn't controversial. It isn't selfish. No, when the Tar Heels take the court, they are well-schooled in the fundamentals of basketball. They are highly disciplined. They are smart.

They don't take dumb shots. They don't commit harmful fouls or needless turnovers. They are patient. They wait for the good, high-percentage shots. They play within their emotions. They work on the court as a team -- just the way Dean Smith demands.

But there's more to the Dean Smith story. In 35 years as head basketball coach at Chapel Hill, he has insisted on academic performance as well -- 98 percent of his players have diplomas and nearly half attended graduate school.

He also cares about those he coaches. He turns them into lifetime friends. On Mondays, he spends much of the day talking by telephone to former players and assistants.

Dean Smith has been a basketball innovator, even while insisting

on hard-nosed discipline. And he hasn't been afraid to follow his conscience -- on behalf of civil rights in the South or in opposing the Vietnam war. He recruited black basketball players before it was fashionable in a conservative southern state. He molded ghetto players and rural phenoms, adapting to societal changes and fads.

Superstar Michael Jordan is a Dean Smith alumnus. So is a long list of coaches and pro players and an even longer list of Tar Heels who played under him and went on to succeed in the world beyond hoop dreams.

Every basketball coach, from College Park's Gary Williams to Coppin State's Ron "Fang" Mitchell, looks up to Dean Smith, not just for what he has achieved but how he has done it. In this era of "show me the money" showboating, Dean Smith remains a pillar of rectitude, a beacon for what's best in amateur sports.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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