Barkley, Howard Among Hundreds of Mourners at Funeral of Derek Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Former University of Louisville player and Washington Bullets assistant coach Derek Smith was remembered as a fierce competitor on the court and a compassionate giver off of it.
NBA stars Charles Barkley, Rex Chapman, Calbert Cheaney, Johnny Dawkins, Pervis Ellison, Juwan Howard, Rick Mahorn, Danny Manning, Gheorghe Muresan and John Starks joined Smith’s wife Monica and their two children, Sydney and Nolan, and about 1,000 friends and family members at Smith’s funeral Thursday at Saint Stephen Baptist Church.
Smith, 34, was on a seven-day cruise with his family and members of the Bullets organization last week when he died of apparent respiratory failure brought on by motion-sickness medicines.
Smith played nine seasons in the NBA with five different teams. His funeral not only brought out numerous professional stars but also many of his teammates from the 1980 University of Louisville team that won the NCAA championship, including Wiley Brown, Jerry Eaves, Rodney and Scooter McCray, Darrell Griffith and Roger Burkman.
``Usually when you go to funerals, people say a lot of great things about people who weren’t really great people,″ said Barkley, Smith’s teammate with the Philadelphia 76ers in the late ’80s. ``But any time somebody says something about Derek Smith, you know he was a great person. We lost a great person and the world is not as good as it was a week ago.″
Other former Louisville players at the service included Junior Bridgeman, Lancaster Gordon, Charles Jones, Greg Minor, Kenny Payne, Tick Rogers and Dwayne Morton.
Louisville coach Denny Crum, Louisville athletic director Bill Olsen, Washington coach Jim Lynam, Washington team president Susan O’Malley and Washington general manager and Louisville alumnus Wes Unseld also attended.
Smith recently organized and sponsored a charity celebrity golf tournament in Louisville. He also ran a basketball camp and gave motivational speeches at schools in the Louisville area.
``(The players on the 1980 team) had one skill that God gave us _ he gave us an abundance,″ said Eaves. ``(Fans) could see that leaping, they could see that jumper, they could see that Derek had long arms and big hands. But the skills that he brought out are skills that a lot of us never bring out. And that’s what made Derek so great.″
``Anybody who needed a helping hand, Derek was there. He didn’t have to be a superstar,″ said Scooter McCray, a forward on the 1980 championship team. ``He opened a lot of doors, not just for himself. He inspired and cared about a lot of people.″