Monday, February 09, 2015

Dean Smith

Dean Smith passed away on Saturday.

I have railed against college coaches in the past--for good reasons--but Dean Smith was different. He cared about right and wrong beyond the confines of the basketball facility. He was a fundamentally decent man. He took strong, principled stands throughout his career, and college athletics would mean much more than it does if there were more men like him.

If you'd like to read about what made him special, this is a good place to start:
A Credible Saint: How Dean Smith Became North Carolina's Moral Compass.

Here's an excerpt, but for a reason that relates to Eli 13.6 and me:
He learned how to apply Marshall's lessons directly to coaching. Giving up in that context meant teaching his players to surrender to the present moment in practice and in games, not to fret about something that was beyond their control in either the future or the past. They were to let go of what they could not control. He helped them—and himself—side-step the self-immolating demands of victory at all costs. "When we talked to our team over the years," he told me, "our emphasis was always play hard, play smart, and play together. We didn't mention winning. The emphasis was on process versus end result." Many would find it ironic that a coach famous for controlling everything he could ultimately believed in letting go. But the most important lesson of all, one that had generated decades of loyalty from his former players, was Smith's equal treatment of every player, from benchwarmers to stars. He wanted to show them that their value as human beings was separate from their performance on the court.

What really struck me reading this paragraph is that I talk to Eli all the time about staying in the moment during a game. I call it "being clear", where he sees everything in front of him with no other thoughts. And we talk about process instead of result all the time. When he puts in good work, the results almost always follow. So it was very neat to see that a coach I admire so much believed in some of the same things I'm trying to teach Eli.

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