The Dean Smith Award was established in June by the US Basketball Writers Association to be given to a coach who exemplifies Smith’s values, and the first recipient of it is beyond fitting.
Per a press release, the USBWA announced that the first Dean Smith Award would be given to former Georgetown coach John Thompson at a dinner in Chapel Hill on November 10, benefitting the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors Fund. The charity has long provided financial aid to students from low-income families.
“You are hitting me in my soft spot,” Thompson said when informed he had been selected. “There was no one in basketball I loved or respected more than Dean Smith. There was never anyone like him.”
Thompson, 74, spent nearly 27 years coaching the Hoyas, posting a career record of 596-239. When he stepped away in 1999, he had nine conference titles to his name along with three trips apiece to the Final Four and NCAA Championship Game, which Georgetown won in 1984. In 1982, however, it was Smith’s North Carolina Tar Heels that defeated Georgetown in the tourney final on a final-seconds shot by freshman sensation and future Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.
But apart from coaching, Thompson stressed academics as well. Many of his players stayed in school for four years and did not leave without degrees, a value that he and Smith shared.
“We think John Thompson is the perfect choice as the first winner of the Smith award,” said USBWA President Pat Forde. “We wanted the winner to be someone Dean Smith would be proud to present the award to if he was here to do it. We think, with John, we have that and we know we have someone who Coach Smith’s family is thrilled to honor.”
Smith passed away in February, but one thing is certain. It’s a pretty safe bet that he would more than approve Thompson receiving the award.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to Ebony