Dean Smith

From Academic Kids

Dean Edwards Smith (born February 28, 1931 in Emporia, Kansas) was the head coach of the UNC Tar Heels men's basketball team from 1961 to 1997. The legendary Smith was consistently regarded as one of the leading coaches in the country, and still holds the record for the most victories by an NCAA Division I men's head coach, with 879. (He was surpassed on March 22, 2005 by Pat Summitt, women's basketball coach for the University of Tennessee.) The basketball arena at UNC is officially the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center, popularly known as the Dean Dome. In 1997, he was named Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year."

A four-time national Coach of the Year, Smith's basketball bloodlines run deep. He grew up in Kansas and played on the Topeka High School basketball team and later he played on the University of Kansas Jayhawks NCAA championship team in 1952 with Basketball Hall of Fame member Clyde Lovellette and under the legendary coach Forrest "Phog" Allen, who in turn learned the game from its inventor, James Naismith. It was at Kansas where Smith observed the finer points of the game from 1949-1953. After earning his undergraduate degree from Kansas, Dean served as a graduate assistant coach at Kansas from 1953-1954.

His teams went to the Final Four 11 times, winning the NCAA Championship twice. His first championship came in '82, with a lineup featuring All-American forwards James Worthy and Sam Perkins, plus a young freshman by the name of Michael Jordan. One signal characteristic of his career was its consistency, with his teams winning at least 20 games a year for 27 years in a row.

He also coached the United States team to a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada.

He has been credited with introducing numerious innovations, including:

  • The "tired signal," in which a player would use a hand signal (originally a raised fist) to indicate that he needed to come out for a rest.
  • The practice of huddling at the free throw line before a foul shot.
  • Starting all his team's seniors on the last home game of the season ("senior day") as a way of honoring the contributions of the subs as well as the stars. In one season when the team included six seniors, he opted to put all six on the floor at the beginning of the game – drawing a technical foul – rather than leave one of them out.
  • The practice of saving time outs for end-of-game situations.
  • A number of defensive sets, including the point zone and the run and jump.

Of course, there is no systematic mechanism for maintaining credit for innovations such as these, so it is likely that some of these may eventually be found to belong to someone else. But the fact that so many are associated to him speaks to his ability to find new ideas that would work. All of these are widespread in basketball today.

One strategy he made infamous was the four corners offense, a strategy for stalling with a lead near the end of the game. The introduction of a shot clock in 1985, which he supported, made that offense mostly obsolete. Although fellow Kansas alum John McClendon invented the four corners, Smith is better known for utilizing it in games.

Current UNC coach Roy Williams was once an assistant under Smith.

External link

Preceded by:
Frank McGuire
UNC Basketball Coaches
Succeeded by:
Bill Guthridge

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