Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina basketball coach, who amassed 879 wins, won two national titles and reached the Final Four 11 times, celebrated his 83rd birthday on Feb. 28.
Though for years now the Hall of Fame coach has endured an ongoing struggle with dementia. John Feinstein of the Washington Post published a story on Saturday, detailing his relationship with his players — from Michael Jordan to walk-ons — and the lasting impact he’s had on Chapel Hill. It was Feinstein’s call to remember all Smith had done, even if he has a difficult time recalling those memories himself.
“Of all people, for it to happen to him is beyond cruel,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “You’re talking about the person who had the sharpest mind and the most remarkable memory of anyone I’ve ever met. It’s just not fair.”
The first time I ever saw him have difficulty recalling something was in 2005. I was interviewing him for a book I was writing on the Final Four and he had trouble remembering the name of a coach he had met the first time he went to the national semifinals as Frank McGuire’s assistant coach at North Carolina.
Dean Smith reaching for a name and not finding it was slightly more stunning than waking up to find the sun rising in the west.
“My memory’s slipping,” he said. “I forget things now.”
He had just turned 74, so a little memory loss didn’t seem like a big deal.
Smith last coached in 1997. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983 and was part of the inaugural National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame class in 2006.
After over 20 inches of rain fell over three days and over 60,000 homes were damaged in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger called his acquaintance, John Derenbecker, in the area to check in. Derenbecker and his family were fine, Slessinger learned, but many in the area were not.
“I told (Derenbecker) to figure out who needed the help the most,” Slessinger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “that I had my whole crew who could come help out on Saturday and Sunday.”
That led Slessinger and his team to the home of an elderly couple, Elbert and Ione Norred, whose house was ravaged by over four feet of flood water. The Privateers helped slog out debris, cut away wet insulation and whatever else needed removing from the soaked home.
“I appreciate everything you have done,” Ione Elbert told the Privateers. “Nobody knows how long it would have taken us to have done this.”
The Red Cross estimates that the relief effort for the flooding could cost upwards of $30 million in the region. To make a donation to the organization call 1-800-RED CROSS.
UNO’s baseball team also got in on the aid effort, heading to Baton Rouge over the weekend.
“We are proud to see our student-athletes, coaches and staff serve our fellow Louisianians in their time of need,” UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel said in a statement. “The men and women of our program understand the importance of serving others and using our resources to help those in less-fortunate situations. We will continue to play for neighbors.”
Rutgers land 7-foot grad transfer from UNC Wilmington
Rutgers landed a commitment from seven-footer C.J. Gettys on Monday night.
Gettys is a graduate transfer from UNC-Wilmington, where he averaged 5.3 points, 5.1 boards and 1.4 blocks for a team that reached the NCAA tournament. Gettys is a slow-footed back-to-the-basket player, however, and that didn’t exactly fit with the way that UNCW head coach Kevin Keatts likes to play; think Shaka Smart’s VCU teams.
So Gettys opted for Rutgers, picking the Scarlet Knights over Dayton, Purdue and Chattanooga.
He is the fifth member of new head coach Steve Pikiell’s first recruiting class.
A Philadelphia basketball legend and a former National Player of the Year passed away on Monday night.
Michael Brooks, a 6-foot-7 forward who was named the NABC National Player of the Year in 1980, died in Switzerland on Monday night due to a massive stroke, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
He was just 58 years old.
Brooks finished his career with 2,628 points and 1,372 rebounds. He never averaged less than 20 points in his four seasons in college. (Think about that for a second.) He was the No. 9 pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and averaged double-figures for four years before season-ending knee injuries sent him to Europe to play. Brooks was also named the captain of the 1980 Olympic team that missed out on the Moscow games due to the USA’s boycott.
Brooks, according to the Inquirer, had aplastic anemia, which required him to receive a bone marrow transplant last week. His body rejected the marrow, which resulted in the strokes that ended his life.
UCLA, who will be the most interesting team in all of college basketball this season, played their first game of an Australian tour on Tuesday morning, and they won in pretty impressive fashion.
The Bruins had triple digits on the board early in the fourth quarter, eventually beating a club in Sydney by the score of 123-76. For comparison’s sake, Washington and potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz beat the same team 101-80 a couple of weeks ago, so the win and the margin of victory is somewhat impressive.
Also worth noting: None of UCLA’s freshmen started. Steve Alford rolled with Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton on the perimeter — Holiday and Hamilton combined for 27 points, 18 assists and 11 boards while Alford had 17 points on just 10 shots — with G.G. Golomon and Thomas Welsh up front.
But the noteworthy performances here were from the McDonald’s All-Americans that Steve Alford brought into the program. In his first game in the blue and gold, Lonzo Ball, a potential top ten pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, was just OK. He finished with nine points and four assists while shooting 3-for-9 from the floor. Leaf, however, was terrific, as he led the team with 21 points to go along with nine boards and three assists.
The first exhibition game is hardly a great way to predict how a season is going to play out, but given the pressure and expectations currently surrounding the program, everything the Bruins do this season is going to be scrutinized.