Dean Smith will be remembered for his remarkable winning percentage in one of basketball's toughest conferences. He will be remembered for his innovations: the four corners, the run-and-jump defense, the foul-line huddle, the closed fist "I'm tired" sign.
He will be remembered for coaching the 1976 U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal in Montreal, for consistently outthinking his peers, for his involvement in some of college basketball's most dramatic comebacks.
His record, 429 victories and 142 defeats is the seventh-best of all time. But two incidents, 20 years apart, tell more about Smith than any statistic.
The first was in 1959. Smith was 28, in his second year as Frank McGuire's assistant at North Carolina. The year before Smith had been a charter member of the Binkley Baptist Church, a liberal spinoff from the town's First Baptist Church.
Segregation was still an accepted fact of life in the South; a fact of life that disturbed the church pastor, Dr. Robert Seymour. When a black theological student came to spend the summer on the church staff, Seymour decided it was time for action.
"All of us in the church knew that the time had come to separate the men from the boys on social issues, especially civil rights," Seymour said. "Dean was completely aware of the situation."
Seymour called Smith. In a small college town he was aware the assistant coach of the home team was a known and respected person. "I told Dean that if he came with us to the restaurant I was almost certain we would be served," Seymour said. "He was eager to do it."
The three men walked into the restaurant that night and sat down. Not a word was said. Orders were taken and the food was served. That was the beginning of integration in Chapel Hill.
Twenty years later, after Smith had ascended to the role of head coach at Carolina, a new restaurant opened: "The Four Corners," named for Smith's delay offense.
Twice, at the request of UNC Assistant Coach Eddie Fogler, a coowner of the restaurant, Smith dropped by for dinner. Both times there was a line. Not wanting to jump in front of people, Smith left.
When Art Chansky, Fogler's partner, learned what had happened he called Smith and told him to phone before coming over the next time so he could save a table for him. A few nights later, Smith called.
When he arrived at the restaurant, there was another line. Rather than walk to the front of the line to claim his table Smith went to the back of the building and entered through the kitchen.
Twenty years after helping make it possible for blacks to walk into local restaurants through the front door, Dean Smith walked into one named for him through the back door.
He then declared the corned beef, "a bit greasy."
Corned beef is not what you would expect Smith to eat. Filet mignon. Oysters Rockefeller. Escargot. Corned beef does not fit the image. And that is a crucial part of this story: the image.
It has been carefully nurtured over the years. It has been called phony by other coaches and it has frustrated the press.
"People always say, 'Nobody can be that good,'" said UCLA Coach Larry Brown, who played and coached under Smith. "They don't want to believe that someone can be that smart, that caring, that together. So they dismiss him as some kind of goody two shoes. But that's the way he is. Just a good, caring person."
"He is," said Fogler, "the best person I have ever known and no one else is even a close second."
Not everyone agrees. Three years ago Virginia Coach Terry Holland said Smith's image as a gentleman was false. He cited an incident at halftime of the 1977 ACC tournament final when Smith and Cavalier forward Marc Iavaroni engaged in a shouting match -- an argument instigated by Smith.
That same year, Smith charged onto the court to yell at Kentucky's Ricky Robey after the 6-foot-10 center knocked 6-2 Carolina guard John Kuester flat in the last seconds of the Tar Heels' Eastern Regional victory over the Wildcats.
Robey said after the game that Smith called him an s.o.b. Smith denied it vehemently. "I have enough vices as it is," he said then. "My parents would probably never speak to me again if I started using obscenity." Now Smith says of the incident. "That (Robey's accusation) was a lie."
Robey, now with the Boston Celtics, stands by the story. "I can still remember it pretty vividly because I was so surprised," he said. "I had this image of Dean Smith and all of a sudden he's waving his hand in my face and calling me a no-good son of a bitch. I was shocked."
Robey married a UNC graduate. "I still have this big newspaper picture of Dean in my face," he said. "I still take it out once in a while and show it to them to remind them that he's not all peaches and cream. But I don't have any hard feelings. It was one remark in the heat of battle."
Then there is the Skeeter Francis story. In 1976, Carolina lost a game to North Carolina State, 68-67, on Super Bowl Sunday.
During the game, according to Smith, State Coach Norman Sloan got up to call a timeout during a period when Carolina was making a run. Just as he did, Francis, the conference information director who was in charge of TV timeouts called one.
After the game, Smith claimed Francis had called the timeout knowing Sloan wanted one. "Don't forget," Smith said then, "Skeeter went to Wake Forest and never liked seeing Carolina win."
Francis, a man known for his integrity, was shocked by the charge, as was everyone else in the room.
"I remember sitting there," said Chansky, then a reporter, "thinking, 'Stop, don't say this.' Every word he said made it worse."
Smith later apoligized to Francis at the bottom of a letter he wrote Acc Commissioner Bob James suggesting changes (later adopted) in the TV timeout system. "Skeeter," Smith wrote, "I hope you'll accept my apology again. At least it got you some ink, just about all of it positive."
Francis still has the letter in his top drawer.
Smith says his image is important to him. "I owe it to the university to maintain a certain image," he said. "I try to be careful about what I say. I always say something positive about the other coach because I think coaching is a hard job and there is always something positive to say if you want to do it.
"I'll never criticize another coach's player and I certainly won't criticize one of my own players. They work too hard to have me knock them in public. If I have something to say to them, I do it alone.
"The problem is whenever I say something nice about somebody we've beaten everyone says, 'Dean's doing it again.' I'm not. I mean everything I say. Its just that I don't say everything I'm thinking."
Other coaches often claim that Smith manipulates the press. "When Terry Holland said those things three years ago he ended up coming out the loser," said Wake Forest Coach Carl Tracy. But what he said was the truth. The man and the image are very different.
"I could come out and tell some stories about him that would illustrate that, but what would be the point? No one would believe me. His control of the press, especially in this state, is unbelievable."
Many who knock Smith have spent a lot of time losing to him over the years. If Dean would quit beating people all the time he'd be a lot more popular," said Maryland's Lefty Dreisell, often cast as a Smith antagonist even though the two men respect each other. "The reason people get on him and made fun of him all the time is because he's always beating them. No one bothers to make fun of guys they beat."
People do make fun of Dean Smith, though. Because he is not tall (5-10), is slightly overweight and has a nose that could pass for Karl Malden's, caricatures of him abound. Few are flattering.
Then there is the voice. Smith speaks in an extremely nasal tone with a flat midwestern accent. Usually he will wave a hand as he speaks. It is a distinctive style. And, because he seems to say the same thing after every game -- "We're very pleased to win; I thought our defense did an excellent job; you people never give (choose one) Brad Hoffman, John Kuester, Dave Colescott, Jimmy Black, enough credit; that certainly looked like a travel to me," -- he is one of the most imitated men in American sport.
"Dean Smith is a great coach," said South Carolina Coach Bill Foster, who lived in Smith's shadow for six years at Duke. "His record is excellent and what's more he's won with good kids, the kind who graduate and go on to do things outside of basketball when they finish college.
"How can you knock that? I admire the guy a lot. I just think that sometimes people get tired of hearing he invented basketball."
In fact, when he was at Duke Foster often joked that, "I thought it was Naismith who invented this game, not Dean Smith."
Because he is always making some kind of coaching move, Smith makes himself constantly visible. That means he receives the credit when his team comes from eight points down in the final 17 seconds to beat Duke, as it did in 1974.
It also means that he faces the criticism when his team is humiliated, trailing Duke, 7-0, at halftime of a game it lost in 1979. That is when Smith is accused of overcoaching.
"He has his hand in everything that team does," said an ACC coach.
"He's got so many great players, he's bound to win more than he loses. So, he looks like a genius most of the time. But there are times when he just plain screws up, just like any other mortal."
Today, at 50, Smith is revered in North Carolina, almost worshiped. The adulation makes him uneasy. Questions about his coaching prowess makes him shift in his seat uncomfortably.
"I was always taught as a boy that you don't brag about yourself," he said. "My parents taught me that kind of thing early."
It is not the first time or last that Smith makes reference to his parents. He talks often about the influence of his father. To understand this man one must know something about Alfred Smith of Emporia, Kan., and his wife Vesta.
Alfred Smith was a coach -- football, basketball, baseball, track. The son of a minister, he always was a firm believer in equality among men long before that was a popular concept. He coached Emporia High School's basketball team to a state championship in 1934. He also coached what is believed to be the state's first integrated basketball team. His son was taught early that segregation was wrong.
Dean Edwards Smith, born Feb. 28, 1931, is the younger of two Smith children. His sister, Joan Ewing, is 2 1/2 years older and works today in the Washington office of Rep. Ike Andrews (D.N.C.) Brother and sister have always been close.
"Sports were always important to Dean for as long as I can remember," Joan Ewing said. "He always had this tremendous drive. I can remember sitting on our porch with him and he would be squeezing a softball to try and strengthen the muscles in his hands. He was always thinking like that."
Smith's father took him to games and often took him on trips. When Dean was old enough, they talked strategy. By the time he was 12, Dean Smith was fascinated with the concepts of coaching. "I was always interested in the Xs and Os, especially in football," Smith said. "I remember drawing up my first play and my dad showing me why it wasn't any good. It was a double wing play but I forgot to block somebody."
As an athlete, Smith always played the positions that made him the leader, the organizer: quarterback in football, point guard in basketball, catcher in baseball. He can still remember playing football in vacant lots and drawing all the plays for his team.
There are very few things Smith does not remember. Casually, he will mention that a counselor from Columbia University came to Topeka High School when he was a senior to talk to 13 members of the class. Not about a dozen, or 10 to 15, but 13. He never forgets a name or a face or a bad call by an official.
"Dean has always been that way," Ewing said. "I think he gets that from our mother, his creativity and imagination from our father."
Ewing remembers one of the first times she noticed both her brother's ability to handle pressure and his attention to detail. "It was when he was in high school, playing quarterback for Topeka High School. We were playing for the mythical state championship and it was a very cold, windy night. In the fourth quarter the wind blew the ball several yards off the line of scrimmage. One of the key running backs on the team, also named Dean, ran over, picked it up and took it over to the referee.
"Dean started yelling at him not to do that. 'Save your strength, let the referee get the ball hinmself, we need you fresh.' He was always thinking that way. A few plays later, Dean, the running back, scored the winning touchdown."
Smith was a good student, and was accepted at the University of Kansas on an academic scholarship. He played freshman football there and was a second-team guard for Phog Allen's basketball teams that won the NCAA championship in 1952 and finished second in 1953. His degree is in math.
Allen, whom Smith still calls, "Dr. Allen," seven years after the coach's death, never wanted to see his players go into coaching. He encouraged Smith to think seriously about medical school.
"I thought about it, but I always liked math and didn't like chemistry," Smith said. "Back then I thought what I really wanted to do was coach high school somewhere and teach math at the same time. The thought of coaching never even entered my mind."
But coaching was always in his mind. Even while Smith was a player, Allen asked him to teach the offense to freshman and junior varsity players. When he graduated, Smith went into the Air Force. Again he coached this time a service team. From there he became assistant coach at the Air Force Academy.
He was there in 1958 when North Carolina Coach Frank McGuire came to the annual coach's convention in Philadelphia looking for an assistant. "I was sitting around a room one night with Bob Spear (the Air Force coach) and Bob Carnevale (Navy)," McGuire said. "Bob said to me that if I wanted to hire someone who was young and aggressive I should hire his assistant, this guy Smith. I told him the kid wanted the job, he had it. Dean came to Chapel Hill and I hired him right away."
Smith was restless under McGuire. There was a personal rapport that continues today. But while McGuire wanted to scrimmage, Smith wanted to teach.
"He was always chomping at the bit, he could never do enough," McGuire recalled. "I had the recruiting contracts in New York and I knew just what I wanted to do in practice each day. Dean always wanted more work. He always had ideas. I told people then that some day I'd be proud to say I was the one who brought him to Chapel Hill. That's the way I start my speeches now. I brag about it."
In the spring of 1961, knowing that the NCAA was about to put the North Carolina program on probation, McGuire accepted an offer to coach the Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA. But before he made the announcement public he went to see the school chancellor, William Aycock.
"I told him I was leaving to take the job and it was very important to me that Dean take my place," McGuire said. "He agreed with me and we went to see (Athletic Director) Chuck Ericson.
"The chancellor told him I was leaving and Dean was taking my place. Chuck said, 'No, it should be my decision.' Aycock told him, 'The decision's been made.'"
And so it was.