Dean Smith Retirement Shocks Fan
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ The raucous Four Corners bar came to a hushed standstill as students listened to a news broadcast saying coaching great Dean Smith would retire.
Once the story ended, the crowd raised glasses in a toast: ``To Dean.″
``Everybody was standing around,″ said bar bouncer Jimmy Moore, a 1995 North Carolina graduate. ``It was like somebody died in here.″
Smith is so ingrained in this town’s consciousness that the bar is named for the famous Four Corners offense he created.
Word of his retirement spread nine days before the Tar Heels begin practice for the 1997-98 season. Smith, 66, said in August that retirement has entered his mind ``every summer for the past 10 years.″
His contract runs through the 2000-2001 season and he also said in August that he was excited about the upcoming season.
``It was some time ago when Dean and I had spoken and the impression I got from him was that he wasn’t going to coach beyond the age of 65,″ said former UCLA coach John Wooden. ``This is a complete and total shock to me.″
Other coaches had the same thing to say.
``No man, no one person has meant more to the game of college basketball as Dean Smith has in the last 36 years,″ said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom.
Former adversary Lefty Driesell, who competed against Smith while coach at Maryland, said Smith’s retirement would be ``a real loss.″
``Everybody has a time when they have to hang it up,″ Driesell said. ``He was a real competitor that more coaches need to act like.″
Late Wednesday, as word spread around town about Smith, about 150 students gathered outside the Dean Smith Center _ called the ``Dean Dome″ locally _ and set up a vigil, even pitching tents to stay until early today.
Some scrawled messages on the sidewalk in light blue chalk _ the Tar Heel color: ``Carolina Needs the Dean″ and ``Please Don’t Go.″
``It’s the end of an era,″ said Jason Dingess, a Tar Heels sophomore from Statesville. ``This is a sad day for everyone.″
Derrick Phelps, who was a starting guard on Smith’s 1993 NCAA national championship team, said he was ``shocked in a way.″
``You think coach Smith could coach forever, but I knew eventually he’d have to quit,″ said Phelps, in Chapel Hill as part of the Philadelphia 76ers training camp. ``I spoke with him yesterday and it was like nothing was different. We were talking about basketball. He was asking me how I was doing. Same old coach Smith.″