Dean Smith: A True Kansas Jayhawk


In 2003, when former Kansas Jayhawks’ basketball coach Roy Williams decided he couldn’t pass up the North Carolina job a second time, many KU fans were angry with Dean Smith.

You can include yours truly in that list.

More from Kansas Jayhawks News

Neither Williams nor Smith came right out and said the Tar Heel legend had been instrumental in bringing the Jayhawk coach back east, but it was obvious he had a huge influence.

Of course other factors included UNC being Williams’ alma mater, as well as one of a scant few jobs in the country near the level of Kansas. However, have no doubt if Smith wanted someone else, Williams would not have ended up there.

In an ESPN article in 2003, Andy Katz agreed.

At the time, it was rumored that Smith told Williams to “come back home.” The problem for some Jayhawk fans was Smith never did that after leaving Kansas for North Carolina.

Born in Emporia, Smith was a reserve on the Jayhawk team that won the 1952 NCAA National Championship prior to becoming head coach at UNC.

He could have been a Jayhawk legend.

Instead, he made someone else one.

Say what you will about Roy Williams, but now that the wounds have healed (helped immensely from the 2008 championship), since his departure, Jayhawks fans should have nothing but the utmost gratitude for what he did with the program.

Word is, Smith helped with that as well.

He encouraged the KU athletic department to take a chance on a no-name kid from North Carolina without any college head coaching experience.

All Williams did was take a team that was on probation, and proceed to make the NCAA Tournament 14 straight years, including four Final Fours and two championship game appearances.

Sure, the Jayhawks won the title just a year before he got there with Larry Brown, but a team on probation is on shaky ground, and Williams did an amazing job steadying the ship.

If not for a man named Carmelo Anthony, Williams would have ended up with his elusive championship at Kansas, in what was his final season in Lawrence.

As we remember Smith, 83, who passed away late Saturday, it’s important to realize he was not an enemy to the University of Kansas.

He played basketball at Topeka High School, then KU, then was a Jayhawk assistant coach. Decades later he helped out KU by suggesting a 10-year assistant and friend leave his program to lead his “other” school.

Smith is known nationally as a Tar Heel, but Kansans should remember him as a Jayhawk.

I know I will.