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John Thompson named recipient of first Dean Smith Award

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In late June the creation of the Dean Smith Award was announced by the University of North Carolina and the United States Basketball Writers Association, with the recipient being a person in college basketball who “exemplifies the spirit and values” represented by the late coach. While Smith, who passed away in February, won 879 games, two national titles and many ACC titles during his time in Chapel Hill, he was also known to take stands on important issues in society.

Wednesday it was announced that former Georgetown head coach John Thompson would be the first recipient of the award, which will be presented at a dinner in Chapel Hill November 10. Thompson won a national title and made three Final Four appearances during his tenure at Georgetown, which included multiple Big East regular season and tournament titles as well.

But Thompson’s impact, like that of his close friend Smith, was not limited to the court and the win/loss ledger. That made him a fitting choice for the first winner of this newly created award.

“You are hitting me in my soft spot,” Thompson said when informed he had been selected. “There was no one in basketball I loved or respected more than Dean Smith. There was never anyone like him.”

Thompson’s respect for Smith went way beyond wins and losses. And, it was Thompson’s record away from the court rather than his wins and losses that led to this recognition.

“We think John Thompson is the perfect choice as the first winner of the Smith award,” said USBWA President Pat Forde. “We wanted the winner to be someone Dean Smith would be proud to present the award to if he was here to do it. We think, with John, we have that and we know we have someone who Coach Smith’s family is thrilled to honor.”

The two coaching greats, who are both enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, most famously coached against each other in the 1982 national title game with a Michael Jordan jumper being the difference in a one-points North Carolina victory. Two years later Thompson would lead the Hoyas to their lone national title.

USBWA, North Carolina announce creation of Dean Smith Award

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The impact that the late North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith had on college basketball and society in general goes well beyond the 879 games and two national titles he won during his time in Chapel Hill. He was active in protests against segregation while also recruiting the school’s first African-American scholarship athlete in Charles Scott, and overall there were a number of causes he championed while also being one of the sport’s greatest coaches.

With that in mind the United States Basketball Writers Association and the University of North Carolina jointly announced the creation of the Dean Smith Award. The honor, which will be awarded annually, will be given to a person in college basketball (all levels, not just Division I) who best exemplifies “the spirit and values represented” by Coach Smith.

“The USBWA has a long history of supporting college basketball and honoring the men and women who make our game great, so I am thrilled that the USBWA would honor Coach Smith’s legacy with this award,” current UNC head coach Roy Williams said in the release. “The award will be especially meaningful because its criteria go beyond winning games in selecting people in college basketball who have made a significant impact on their communities.

“It recognizes the profound impact Coach Smith had on so many lives. I am proud that Carolina is teaming with the USBWA to establish the award and honor the recipients here in Chapel Hill.”

Per the release, the award will be given out at a dinner on the North Carolina campus just before the start of that particular season, with proceeds from the dinner going to the Dean Smith Opening Doors Fund. The fund aims to help students from low-income families with college expenses and professionals involved in the fields of education and social work.

North Carolina honors Dean Smith by running Four Corners offense (and scoring) on first possession (VIDEO)


North Carolina head coach Roy Williams honored legendary former Tar Heel coach Dean Smith on Saturday by running Smith’s famous Four Corners offense during the team’s first offensive possession against Georgia Tech. Point guard Marcus Paige found a cutting Brice Johnson for a layup to give No. 15 North Carolina its first field goal of the afternoon.

Smith passed away on Feb. 7 at the age of 83, but the Tar Heels have not played a home game at the Dean Smith Center since a loss to Virginia on Feb. 2. Before the game, the school honored Smith with a moment of silence.

Williams finally got to honor one of his mentors by running Smith’s signature offense on the team’s first offensive possession. Pretty cool moment and a nice gesture for Smith in North Carolina’s return home.

(Vine Credit: Josh Parcell)

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski wears lighter shade of blue in honor of Dean Smith (PHOTO)

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Mike Krzyzewski  (AP Photo)

On Thursday a private service was held to honor the life of the late Dean Smith in Chapel Hill, with family, close friends, former players and coaches, and some rival coaches showing up to pay their respects. Among those who were in attendance were former players Brad Daugherty, Rasheed Wallace, and Eric Montross, current North Carolina head coach Roy Williams and former UNC assistant and head coach Bill Guthridge.

Also in Chapel Hill for the private service were former Georgetown head coach John Thompson and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski paid tribute to Smith by wearing a “Carolina blue” shirt and tie.

The private service was held at Binkley Baptist Church, which was Smith’s longtime place of worship. A public memorial will be held February 22 at the Smith Center on the North Carolina campus.

h/t CBS Sports

List of head coaches on Dean Smith’s coaching tree is an impressive one


Sunday morning the University of North Carolina announced that legendary head coach Dean Smith passed away Saturday night at the age of 83. During his time as a head coach Smith won 879 games, two national titles, an Olympic gold medal (1976), 13 ACC titles, 17 ACC regular season titles and helped shepherd many players not only into professional basketball but also in other arenas in life.

And to limit discussions about Smith’s impact to basketball would be unfair to him, as he also fought hard for social justice. Charles Scott, who told Smith during his recruitment that he preferred to be called “Charles” as opposed to the commonly used “Charlie,” became the ACC’s first African-American scholarship athlete in the mid-1960’s. Smith also participated in sit-ins, and protests over other issues such as the Vietnam War and the use of the death penalty.

To play for a person of Smith’s influence certainly benefitted his players, who went on to enjoy success not only in basketball but in other avenues of life as well. Below are those who went on to become head coaches in basketball, with many others moving on into assistant coaching and administrative roles. And this doesn’t include those, such as Gregg Popovich, who have been impacted by those who played for Smith.

While it likely wasn’t a goal of his, Dean Smith ended up planting one of the greatest coaching trees in all of sports.

MORE: Reactions to Dean Smith’s passing | Dean Smith’s ten greatest players at UNC

Active head coaches who played/worked for Dean Smith

  • Larry Brown (SMU): Brown’s amassed an impressive list of achievements at both the collegiate and professional levels, winning a national title at Kansas in 1988 and an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Currently the head coach at SMU, Brown won 1,327 games as a pro head coach (NBA and ABA) and has won more than 71 percent of his games as a college head coach. Brown played at UNC from 1960-63.
  • Roy Williams (North Carolina): The UNC alumnus returned home to Chapel Hill in 2003 after taking over for Brown at Kansas in 1988 and returning that program to national prominence. Like his mentor, Williams has two national titles to his credit, and he’s won just over 79 percent of his games as a college head coach. Williams has won two ACC titles and six ACC regular season titles at North Carolina, and like Brown, he’s a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Scott Cherry (High Point): Cherry was a senior captain on Smith’s second national title team (1993), and as an assistant he was a member of Jim Larrañaga’s staff on the George Mason team that reached the Final Four in 2006. Cherry took over as head coach at High Point in 2009, winning the Big South North Division title in 2013 and 2014 and the overall conference regular-season title in 2014.
  • Butch Estes (Barry University): Estes made the move to Barry from Palm Beach State College in 2013, and he’s won nearly 500 games during a head coaching career that has spanned just over three decades. Estes played freshman basketball at North Carolina, and he served as a student manager under Smith.
  • Jeff Lebo (East Carolina): Lebo, who played for Smith from 1985-89, has been a Division I head coach at four different schools (Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga, Auburn and ECU) and has a career record of 294-230. Lebo led his last team at Tennessee Tech (2001-02) to the quarterfinals of the Postseason NIT.
  • King Rice (Monmouth): Rice recently moved into the head coaching ranks, taking over at Monmouth in 2011. Rice, who played for Smith from 1987-91, served as an assistant at Oregon, Illinois State, Providence and Vanderbilt from 1992-2011. Among his assistants is another former Tar Heel in Brian Reese, who was a teammate of Rice’s at UNC and ultimately won a national title in 1993.
  • Tony Shaver (William & Mary): Shaver walked onto the North Carolina basketball team in 1972 and was a member of the program for four seasons, with players such as Walter Davis, Phil Ford and Mitch Kupchak among his teammates. In 2003, Shaver made the move from Hampden-Sydney to William & Mary, and he’s led the Tribe to three CAA tournament title game appearances.

Former head coaches who played for Smith at North Carolina

  • Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Matt Doherty (Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida Atlantic, SMU)
  • Eddie Fogler (Wichita State, Vanderbilt, South Carolina)
  • George Karl (Montana Golden Nuggets (CAB), Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Albany Patroons (CBA; twice), Real Madrid (twice), Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets)
  • John Kuester (Detroit Pistons)
  • Doug Moe (San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Buzz Peterson (Appalachian State (twice), Tulsa, Tennessee, Coastal Carolina, UNCW)

Executives/Administrators who played for Smith at North Carolina

  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
  • Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan
  • Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak
  • Former Pacers/Knicks executive Donnie Walsh

The Top Ten Players at North Carolina under Dean Smith

Dean Smith, Michael Jordan (AP Photo)

North Carolina announced that legendary head coach Dean Smith passed away on Saturday night, succumbing to a long battle with an illness that had kept him in poor health for years.

It may be fair to say that no one in the history of basketball has spanned the generations quite like Coach Smith. He coached at Kansas under a man, Phog Allen, who played for the inventor of the game, James Naismith. While at North Carolina, he helped turn Michael Jordan into the greatest player the game has ever seen. When Jordan was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he said, “There’s no way you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith.”

That’s quite an endorsement.

RELATED: Dean Smith passes away at 83Reaction to Dean Smith’s passing

In total, Smith recruited 26 all-americans to North Carolina and sent 25 players to the first round of the NBA Draft. Here are the ten best to ever play for him:

1. Michael Jordan: It’s impossible to put together a list of greatest players without having Jordan top that list. Let’s just put it like this: He hit the national-title winning jumper as a freshman, was the National Player of the Year as a junior and finished his professional career as nothing more than the greatest basketball player of all-time. That’s a decent career, isn’t it?

2. Phil Ford: Ford finished his North Carolina career, one that saw him named a three-time all-american, as the school’s all-time leading scorer and the only player in ACC history to score 2,000 points and dish out 600 assists.

3. Sam Perkins: “Big Smooth” was a member of the team that won the 1982 National Title. He was a sophomore and a second-team all-american that season. Perkins would go on to be named a first-team all-american his last two seasons in college. He scored more than 2,000 points in college.

4. James Worthy: Worthy was the co-National Player of the Year in 1982 (Ralph Sampson) as the Tar Heels won the national title. That 1982 team also included Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, which should give you an idea of just how important he was.

5. Antawn Jamison: Jamison was among the last recruits that Smith brought into the North Carolina program. He was the National Player of the Year in 1998, the year after Smith had retired, averaging 22.2 points and 10.5 boards. It was North Carolina’s second straight Final Four.

6. Mike O’Koren: O’Koren was a three-time first-team all-american under Smith, leaving the program in 1980 as the only player to score 1,500 points, grab 800 rebounds and dish out 300 assists.

7. Charlie Scott: Scott may not have been the best player to ever come through North Carolina, but he was arguably the most important. Scott was the first African-American scholarship athlete at North Carolina, enrolling in the school in the late-1960s.

8. Billy Cunningham: The Kangaroo Kid finished his three-year UNC career with averages of 24.8 points and 15.4 rebounds.

9. Vince Carter: Before he became ‘Air Canada’, Carter entered North Carolina in the same recruiting class as Jamison. He was a second team all-american in 1998.

10. Jerry Stackhouse: Stack was a first-team all-american and won a National Player of the Year award as a sophomore at UNC. He also left the program with one of college basketball’s most memorable highlights: