Dean Smith: An Appreciation

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It seems to me that becoming a sports fan as a kid is the safest way, though hardly foolproof, to ensure that love (of a particular team, of a program, of a player) might endure over time. People tend to catch the sports bug young or not at all, and early adoption certainly helps inure any budding fan from the host of off-field ugliness and disappointments he or she might experience over a lifetime of support. It also has the curious side effect of making us feel our heroes are immortal, or should be. Sports figures rise and fall, routinely. Sports heroes rise and reign, then decline and fade. It’s all part of the standard narrative. They are so celebrated, so lionized, so lifted above the common rabble, that even if it is never spelled out, immortality is implied in these plaudits, or at least it is there for the youngster to infer. College basketball, even more than its gridiron (or professional) counterpart, is a (fairly) benign cult of personality revolving around its head coach. Stars shine brightly on the court, then inevitably, regularly depart, grist for a wheel that never stops turning, but the coach is perpetual, a fixture, a fulcrum on which the program turns, or has that potential at any rate, assuming, of course, that he’s any good. Continue reading “Dean Smith: An Appreciation”