(Editor’s Note: Some readers were surprised to learn the late Dean Smith was a Kansan and a member of the 1952 NCAA-champion Jayhawk basketball team. The North Carolina coaching legend was born and raised in Emporia and apparently was marked early as a leader by those who knew him, according to this excerpt from the Capitalizing on Sports column of December 18, 1959)
Dean Smith of Kansas is a little guy making good in a big way. He was a fine high school basketball player, but at only 5-10 he never made KU’s starting team.
Still, he impressed his coaches with his intelligence and basketball instinct, and his ability to diagnose and grasp quickly any part of the game. He was the squad’s best at running enemy patterns against the varsity, and KU coach Dick Harp says of him: “He was born to coach.”
That could be because he is the son of a successful high school coach, and shortly after graduating and completing a service hitch, he turned up as assistant coach at the Air Force Academy. While there, he met North Carolina coach Frank McGuire for the first time.
He must have impressed McGuire. When assistant Buck Freeman resigned at Carolina, McGuire called Smith, who took the job, He’s in his third year there now, and as Carolina appears certain to have another great team, McGuire terms Smith’s coaching and scouting “indispensible” . . . .