Carolina Blue

Before the day finally came, most of us had told ourselves we were ready for it. I know I had. But sadly, we don't always listen closely to the things we tell ourselves, and all too often we find ourselves unprepared for even the most inevitable day. That was how I and many others felt this morning when we learned that Dean Smith had died.

You've probably seen the testimonials from former players, from colleagues, from sportswriters, and even from the White House. In that company, there's certainly nothing I can contribute by raising my own poor voice to praise him. Even before his legendary memory for names and faces began to fail him in the last few years of his life, Coach Smith would have had no reason to recall a kid who attended his basketball camp a couple of times and sat in the corner of Carmichael Auditorium for home games. And though I may wish otherwise, I have no reason to believe that he ever read my essay about him, "Seventeen Things I Learned from Dean Smith," published in Basketball in America: From the Playgrounds to Jordan's Game and Beyond. No, I'm not naive enough to believe that I can contribute anything to the choir currently singing.

But if there's one lesson Coach Smith taught, it was a lesson he himself learned from his father, and it's that lesson that I take to heart now. I wish to celebrate the life of Dean Smith not because he needs me to do it or because I will do it particularly well, but because it is the right thing to do. When a man you admire passes on, you take the time to acknowledge him, and your admiration for him. In doing so, you call attention to the importance of others in your life, and to the beauty of the living music into which all our voices are woven. You point to the passer.

"You should never be proud of doing what's right," Coach Smith once said. "You should just do what's right."

I'll keep trying, Coach. But I hope you'll forgive me if I'm still proud of you for doing it.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on February 8, 2015 9:27 PM.

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