Dean Smith’s memory fading, but not his record
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Dean Smith’s office still has the lights on. The name is still on the desk, with mementos on the wall and pictures of his grandchildren on the shelves.
This is Monday morning, and he is scheduled to be in later, for he still usually visits the first three workdays each week. But there will be little conversation with anyone, because one of the greatest basketball coaches the game has ever seen now dwells in the darkness. He’ll turn 82 later this month, and the “progressive neurocognitive disorder,” as his family called it in a letter to the public in July 2010, is as merciless as it is relentless.
“Dean Smith could remember everything and everybody,” his longtime assistant and friend and UNC successor Bill Guthridge is saying. “And now he can’t.
“He has good days and bad days. But his good days aren’t very good.”
No disease can touch his aura, though. The pitfalls of the modern world have trapped and destroyed a good many legends. Lance Armstrong. Joe Paterno. Any number of would-be baseball Hall of Famers.
But Dean Smith is still Dean Smith, and always will be. A scandal-less and cloudless titan with 879 wins, whose only demerit is that maybe he could have won another championship or two. Does he understand how the legacy still resonates? “I’m not sure,” Guthridge says. “It is very hard.”
In a corner of the Dean E. Smith Center, where the Tar Heels play, the past still reports for duty. Current coach Roy Williams made very sure that when his office was renovated, room was made for a suite for North Carolina’s yesterday.
So there is an office for Smith, who won his second and last title 20 years ago this spring and has been retired since 1997. It’s next to the one for Guthridge, Smith’s assistant for three decades and then head coach for three years and two Final Fours, and next to the one for Linda Woods, who was basketball secretary all that … [For more on Lopresti: Dean Smith's memory fading, but not his record, click here.]