Dean Smith: More Than A Basketball Coach

Posted: April 4, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Sports, Things I Love
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Dean Smith was a legendary basketball coach at the University of North Carolina. He won 879 games and coached players like Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and James Worthy. He’s widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball coaches of all-time. But there’s more . . .

In the late 1940s, there was a young player at Topeka High School in Kansas, which had been integrated from the time it was founded in 1871 but was fielding an all-white team known as the Trojans.  The other teams at Topeka High were integrated, but not basketball.

There was also an all-black team, the Ramblers, made up of students from the school. African American students were banned from attending school dances and other activities at the time.

Topeka High did not fully support the Ramblers. The Trojans were the school’s team and the Ramblers couldn’t even use the school’s gym to practice. They played their games and held their practices at East Topeka Junior High. They also had their own all-black cheerleading squad.

Topeka High did help the Ramblers a little. It provided them with uniforms and with buses for away games, as they played in an all-black conference against teams from Kansas and western Missouri. Wherever they played, the Ramblers faced segregation. Meals on the road were served by the families of the opposing teams in gyms or churches. On overnight road trips, the players stayed in the homes of local African-American families.

In 1948, the Trojans placed third in the state tournament. The next year, a member of the Trojans went to Buck Weaver, the principal, to try to get the two teams merged; and he would not give up after initially being told no.

That player was Dean Smith, the same Dean Smith who later helped integrate ACC basketball by recruiting Charlie Scott to play at the University of North Carolina in 1966.

Keep in mind that this was 5-years before the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that led to the desegregation of America’s schools.

But there’s more.

In the 1960s, Dean Smith helped integrate a local restaurant in Chapel Hill and assisted an African-American graduate student’s purchase of a home in an all-white neighborhood. In a profession in which most coaches are either conservative or not political at all, Dean Smith opposed the Vietnam War, the death penalty and called for a freeze on nuclear weapons, among other causes.

And he wasn’t afraid to tell you about it.

Want more? Dean Smith graduated over 96% of his players and he was the coach who first taught his players to point to the teammate who passed them the ball after a basket. Players all over the world are still doing it to this day.

After Dean Smith died on February 7th, 2015, every player who ever lettered for him was sent a check from his estate for $200.00. And the legend himself, Michael Jordan, released this statement:

“Other than my parents, nobody had a bigger impact on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach – he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”

Dean Smith, more than a basketball coach. Much, much more.

 

 

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