The University of North Carolina and the United States Basketball Writers Association announced on Wednesday the creation of a new national basketball award to honor the late Dean Smith. Smith, who passed away at age 83 this past February.
The legendary Tar Heels coach was never a spotlight seeker, and as such, current UNC coach Roy Williams believes he would have been uncomfortable at the thought of an award named in his honor.
“He would leave the room,” Williams said, via the News & Observer. “Leave the room and say, ‘Thank you, but I think I’ll get out of here.'”
Winning games – and Smith won a LOT of games – may have made him a household name, but it was his humility, social consciousness and the relationships he built with his players that created the off-court legacy for which he is perhaps best known.
UNC and the USBWA are now seeking to honor that legacy with the creation of the Dean Smith Award, which will be given each year to someone in college basketball, whether they be a player, coach, official or administrator, who best embodies the Smith legacy.
Washington Post columnist and former USBWA president John Feinstein said, “The winner is going to have nothing to do with wins and losses, because Dean was about so much more than wins and losses. The causes he stood up for, the lives that he touched throughout his coaching career and after his coaching career – that’s what this award is about. And we’re going to search for a person each year who Dean would be proud to present the award to if he were still here.”
Smith’s wife, Linnea, and his son, Scott, were in attendance at the announcement at the Smith Center on the UNC campus.
Scott Smith said, “Dad would not want awards named for him, but I’m sure he would feel comfortable having people acknowledge what (future winners have) done in their lives and how they’ve impacted other people’s lives through the game of basketball. So that’s why we’re very happy as a family to be supportive of this.”
The inaugural Dean Smith Award will be presented close to the start of this coming college basketball season – and around the same time annually – at a charity awards dinner hosted by UNC. The dinner will be open to the public, with proceeds benefiting the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund.
The fund helps students from low-income families attend college.
Dean Smith retired from coaching in 1997. He led the Tar Heels to two national championships and 11 Final Fours, amassing 879 wins along the way. At the time he retired, he was the winningest coach in Division I college basketball history.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports