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Character Speaks for Itself

Character Speaks for Itself

• By Ashe Lockhart
• February 8, 2015

>> On the day Dean Smith retired, I was a law clerk on the NC Supreme Court. The justices took a break from the business of the court so we could watch the announcement on TV. The justices sat in chairs, and the law clerks sat on the floor at their feet. It was surreal to be sitting there at the feet of wisdom in that somber place to watch Coach Smith announce his retirement.

At that same time, a friend of mine was Dean Smith and Michael Jordanrushing to Chapel Hill to get to his favorite watering hole on Franklin Street to watch the announcement with his crew. He stopped for gas in Carrboro. As he stood at the gas pump waiting, he noticed a man at a nearby pump filling up. It was Dean, Coach Smith. My friend walked over, extended his hand and said “Coach Smith, thanks for everything.” Dean took his hand and said, “no son, thank YOU!”

As we say in law, “res ipsa loquitur” — the thing speaks for itself; no further explanation is necessary.

Update: February 9, 2015 – responses to my little story show how deeply people feel about Dean Smith. And, interestingly, how their feelings toward him were only partly shaped by the success he brought to the Carolina Tar Heels on the basketball court. It seems his lasting impression on people was outside the arena of sport.

Possibly the definitive article about Dean Smith, written by Tommy Tomlinson for ESPN.


Here is a powerful article by Tommy Tomlinson and a powerful video by Bill Nack…captures Dean really well.


And an article by Charles P. Pierce


Update; Epilogue: March 26 and April 2, 2015 – The Arc of a Life and a Seat at the Table – The news broke on March 26 that Coach Smith had made a bequest of $200 to each of the 180 lettermen he coached in his career to have a last dinner on his dime.  The story was nicely told in the following article in the Daily Tar Heel.


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Ashe Lockhart – Principal

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