5 things I have in common with Dean Smith

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MichaelJordanDeanSmithby Brian Clarey

1. A commitment to social justice

I’ll admit I just don’t have the history with Carolina hoops and the ACC to properly write anything about the passing of legendary Tar Heels Coach Dean Smith. I really didn’t know much about the winningest coach in college basketball except that he coached Michael Jordan and too many other pros to name, he ran a clean program and his players seemed to eventually graduate. But he also opposed the state’s death penalty and worked towards racial equality. And he endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008. Just sayin’.

2. Our mothers

His mother was a public-school teacher. Mine worked at a private school. But this counts.

3. He knew how to assemble a team

Smith never claimed to be a genius. But when the game he played in college in the early 1950s morphed into modern basketball, he surrounded himself with coaches who understood the new paradigm and players who could execute. I have done roughly the same thing with Triad City Beat, with a hand-picked staff that continually makes me look good.

4. Innovation

Dean Smith didn’t invent the Four Corners defense, but he used that excruciating late-game run on the clock to seal victories so often and effectively that he became associated with the technique. And while it is likely that I did not invent the “double-tap” as it pertains to the newspaper business, I do think I can use it to change the industry in a way that’s perhaps not all that exciting. Also: I’m not telling what the double-tap is.

5. 1982

On March 29, 1982, after seven trips to the NCAA tournament, Dean Smith won his first national title. At roughly the same time, I played the role of the Pirate King in the Stewart School production of The Pirates of Penzance. Both were big news in my house at the time. I was 11.