Dean Smith, A KU BALLS Memorial

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Like many KU fans, I went through a “complicated” relationship with Dean Smith. First proud of his being a Jayhawk and of the Kansas-North Carolina connection, then angry over the stories & rumors that he not only helped steal Roy Williams from KU, but that his involvement and the timing of the UNC coaching position distracted Kansas in 2003 and contributed to our loss in the National Championship game. Over time, I’ve realized that whatever distraction Dean Smith helped to create against Syracuse, it probably wasn’t the cause of our 12-30 showing at the free throw line. Additionally, whatever may have happened should get an equal amount of praise for KU’s 94-61 pasting of the Dwyane Wade-led Marquette Golden Eagles two days before. I’ve come to better understand the pull of home, and no longer hold any of that spring against Dean Smith or Roy Williams. Finally winning a title in 2008 didn’t hurt, either…

So when I woke up this morning and heard Dean Smith had passed away after a few years of battling a variety of illnesses, I was saddened. Dean was not only a giant in college basketball, but a indisputable face on its coaching Mount Rushmore. I had come back to a stance welcoming Coach Smith a member of the Jayhawk family – there were grumbles, but in the grand scheme of things, he was a Jayhawk. True, most of his accomplishments branched from his adopted home and love of North Carolina, but they still stemmed from the roots of Phog Allen and the University of Kansas.

On a personal note, there is also a connection between Dean Smith and my family: While at KU, then-player Smith was good friends with my great-uncle Jack Wolfe and lived with him & my great-grandmother for a period of time. My dad recalls Dean and Jack playing keep-away with him, and at KU’s 100-year anniversary celebration, I had a brief chance to talk to Coach Smith (with Coach Larry Brown standing nearby) about it and he remembered Jack and my great-grandmother, Nettie.

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Me talking to Coaches Smith and Brown. Coach Smith remembered my family, but probably wasn’t prepared for my bounding out of the stands…

KU BALLS is proud to display various items connected to KU grad & all-time great Dean Smith, mostly connected with the 1952 championship team.

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From a banquet program celebrating the 1952 championship team.

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Dean Smith’s signature along with others from the 1952 team.

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Dean Smith along with fellow coaching HOF’er and KU alum Ralph Miller, plus a few other coaches that did okay in their careers…
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A pictorial magazine plus the program from 1952. Dean Smith signed the lower ticket stub in the middle at the 100 year celebration, Clyde Lovellette the upper one.

Rock Chalk in peace, Coach Smith…

 

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