“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to [Smith’s wife] Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”
Like Jordan, many of Smith’s former players paid tribute to him as a teacher and that was evident in a humble recruiting letter Smith sent to Jordan in August 1980.
He wrote, in part, “We do think you’re a tremendous young man and are impressed no only with your obvious basketball talent, but the way you have been a leader at school and done well academically. We look forward to following you closely this year and hope to see you frequently in Chapel Hill.
I am writing your parents separately since they were so very hospitable to us. Enjoyed seeing you, Michael, and hope that, beginning in September 1981 I can be your coach.”