Dean Smith’s legacy lives on

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"Dean Smith, who died February 7th this year at 83, didn’t know when he would take his final breath, but he did know that he wanted to reward the players that helped him become the ninth most winningest division one college coach in NCAA history." Photo courtesy of TNS.

Lauren Holmes

He had plans after death. A post- humorous dinner date with about 180 players that suited up for him in his 36 year career as University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s head coach.

Dean Smith, who died February 7th this year at 83, didn’t know when he would take his final breath, but he did know that he wanted to reward the players that helped him become the ninth most winningest division one college coach in NCAA history.

The $200 check accompanied a letter that said “enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith.” The checks were sent out Monday to all of Smith’s former players which included the likes of Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and Jerry Stackhouse.

Accountant Tim Breedlove wrote the letter on Smith’s behalf via the instructions in his will. Breedlove confirmed the letter was real during a conversation with USA Today’s sport section, For The Win.

Though it seemed like a surprising gesture to most, the late coach was known for having a personal relationship with his players by keeping their best interest at heart especially when it came to their academics.

96.6 percent of his players received their degree whether they finished at the end of their playing career or returned to school later. Smith instilled the importance of obtaining a degree in his players.

Besides educational success, Smith achieved collegiate feats with the Tar Heels, including 11 trips to the NCAA Final Four. He is currently tied second all-time with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and only bested by University of California, Los Angeles’ John Wooden 12 appearances.

Smith was able to capitalize on two of those visits with a NCAA championship, while coaching future Los Angeles Laker James Worthy in ’82 and another in ’93 with former McDonald’s All-American Eric Montross.

The four-time National Coach of the Year is regarded by some as a “coaching legend” and Michael Jordan credited his successful playing career to Smith during his Basketball Hall of Fame induction speech.

Coach Dean Smith entered the hall of fame, too. He did it five times – once for his efforts as a University of Kansas athlete, another for his contribution to international basketball, and three times to commemorate his career as a coach; those included the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, Basketball Hall of Fame and College Hall of Fame respectively.

Though Smith has entered into a different type of realm this go- around, he has still figured out a way to connect with his players.

This time with a night out on the town.