But Smith’s basketball accomplishments tell only part of his story. You may not know that Smith worked to abolish the death penalty in North Carolina and openly supported gay rights. As a high school senior in 1949, five years before the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, he pleaded in vain with officials to include African-American players on the school’s basketball team. Sixteen years later, after completing his fourth season as the head coach at North Carolina, Smith ventured to New York City and came back to Chapel Hill with Charlie Scott, the most significant recruit of his tenure. Scott became the school’s first African-American scholarship recipient. Smith had successfully integrated major college basketball in the South.
Smith passed away in February 2015, and Dean Smith: A Basketball Life takes stock of this extraordinary man whose ideas and philosophies have shaped the best of what college basketball has been and should aspire to be in the future. In this revealing biography, author Jeff Davis calls on the reminiscences of Coach Smith’s closest friends and associates, former players, coaches, and rivals, and a wealth of secondary sources, to render a rich and vivid portrait of this towering figure of 20th-century American sports.