Late Basketball Coach Gives His Players One Last Gift

Coach Smith and Michael Jordan
  • Article by Amy Bradney-George
  • March 31, 2015 at 10:25 AM

Former University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith loved his job and team so much he included them in his will.

The legendary university coach was head of the basketball team at UNC for 36 seasons, helping teams win the national title in 1982 and 1993. It was the only college Smith ever taught at during his long and remarkable career.

So when he passed away in February 2015, aged 83, he gave his last thanks to his players – bequeathing $200 to every letterman who played for him during his time at the school.

In a letter that has since gone viral on social media, the trustee of Smith’s estate says that each player was important to Coach Smith and that he wanted to reach out to them when he was preparing his estate plan.

“Coach directed that following his passing each letterman be sent a two hundred dollar ($200) check with the message “enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith”,” the letter says.

Around 180 players lettered under Coach Smith when he was at UNC, and the responses from them and others in the basketball community have shown just how much Smith touched people’s lives.

In an interview with US news station ESPN, former North Carolina player Brad Daugherty says he was stunned to receive the letter.

“It absolutely stunned me because this is someone I find to be a remarkable human being, someone I love dearly and already miss, and it really shocked me to get this,” he says, adding that he already knows what he’ll do with the cheque.

“I’m getting it matted and framed and I’m gonna stick it in my office and I’ll be able to look at it everyday and remember Coach.”

Coach Smith was a giant in the basketball world. As well as his 36-season tenure at UNC, he was four-time National Coach of the Year, led the U.S. basketball team to a Gold Medal in the 1976 Olympics, earned a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame and was remembered for contributions to the Civil Rights movement. He’s also one of the coaches that helped legendary basketball player Michael Jordan go pro, who he coached at UNC in the early 80s.

While Coach Smith’s legacy lives on in basketball, this gesture written into his will reveals how much he truly cared for everyone he worked with.

Images: Coach Dean Smith and Michael Jordan at a UNC game in 2007, source: Wikimedia Commons; The letter from Coach Smith’s estate, source: @cmillscsn (Twitter).

Coach letter
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