A tweet showing a photograph of one of the letters, addressed to Tar Heels 1993 championship team member Dante Calabria, went viral on Thursday.
“As you are aware Coach Dean Smith passed away on Feb. 7, 2015. As Trustee of Dean E. Smith Revocable Trust, I am responsible for carrying out the directions of Coach Smith with respect to a small bequest to each varsity basketball letterman he coached,” the letter, signed by a man named Tim Breedlove, states. It continues:
“Each player was important and special to Coach Smith and when he prepared his estate plan, Coach (Smith) wanted to reach out to each of his letterman. Accordingly, Coach directed that following his passing, each letterman be sent a two hundred dollar ($200.00) check with the message ‘enjoy dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith.’ Enclosed is a check in the amount of two hundred dollars ($200.00) with the notation ‘Dinner out.’“Please enjoy your dinner out.”
Smith, who coached at North Carolina from 1961 to 1997, mentored 184 players during that time, according to Sports Illustrated. Of course, some of Smith’s former players don’t need the money. Michael Jordan, who came into his own under Smith’s auspices, is on Forbes’s billionaires list. Smith’s gesture might be worth more, however.
“We never expected anything like this, but it doesn’t surprise me that this was done,” another player, Jeb Barlow, told ESPN on Thursday. Barlow played at UNC from 1980 to 1982.
One former player, Serve Zwikker who played from 1993 to 1997, told ESPN he teared up when he received the letter.
“I don’t think I can cash this,” he said. “If anything, I will donate it to a good cause.”