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  • Writer's pictureChuck Monan

How You Play the Game

Dean Smith: Beyond Victories - A legendary basketball coach who used his platform to fight for racial integration and stand up for what's right.
For when the One Great Scorer comes To mark against your name, He writes ― not that you won or lost ―But how you played the Game.

― Grantland Rice

When legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith passed away at the age of 83, much of the attention was directed at his record number of victories, many final Fours and two national championships.

Those who really knew him, however, focused on how he used his platform to fight for racial integration and to stand up for what he believed was right. Jeff Eisenberg writes,

“He exerted his influence to help a black graduate student buy a home in an all-white neighborhood. He did the same to integrate Chapel Hill restaurants notorious for turning away black customers. He also recruited Charlie Scott to UNC in 1966 at a time when most other top Southern programs were still resistant to bringing in black players, an instrumental moment in the desegregation of the Atlantic Coast Conference.”

When North Carolina hired the Kansas native as an assistant coach in 1958, the modern civil rights movement was clashing with Jim Crow. During this time of segregation, Smith made the decision to join a church that welcomed people of all races and ethnicities. His minister, Robert Seymour, was Smith’s friend for five decades. He said,

"He was unlike any other coach I know in that he had courage in his convictions and did not mind speaking them publicly. Many coaches would hesitate to get involved in controversial issues but Dean had no hesitation letting people know where he stood on those matters."

Some things are far more important than wins and losses. Dean Smith understood this.


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