Barkley, Howard Among Hundreds of Mourners at Funeral of Derek Smith
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Hundreds of mourners gathered at a Louisville church Thursday for the funeral of former University of Louisville player and Washington Bullets assistant coach Derek Smith, who died aboard a cruise ship last Friday.
NBA players Charles Barkley, Rex Chapman, Calbert Cheaney, Johnny Dawkins, Pervis Ellison, Juwan Howard, Rick Mahorn, Danny Manning, Gheorghe Muresan and John Starks were among those present.
They joined Smith’s wife, Monica, and their two children, Sydney and Nolan, and about 1,000 friends and family members at the Saint Stephen Baptist Church to honor Smith, who played nine seasons in the NBA with five different teams.
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.
``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.″
Many of Smith’s teammates from Louisville’s 1980 NCAA championship team were also on hand, including Wiley Brown, Jerry Eaves, Rodney and Scooter McCray, Darrell Griffith and Roger Burkman. 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 athletics director Bill Olsen, Washington coach Jim Lynam, Washington team president Susan O’Malley and Washington general manager and Louisville alumnus Wes Unseld also attended.
He was remembered Thursday as a fierce competitor on the court and a compassionate giver off of it.
Eaves, now a Louisville assistant, remembered a night when Smith, then 16, got into an argument with a pro player during a pickup game. Eaves said Smith scored the winning basket but that the pro player, whom he didn’t name, wanted to take the point away and get another chance to win the game.
``The team manager runs up and tells Derek that then-assistant coach (Bill) Olsen wants to talk to him,″ said Eaves. ``Coach Olsen tells him, `Derek, these are professionals and they’re doing us a big favor by playing in our gym. We should show them respect.′ And Derek says, `I did show them respect, but I scored the winning basket. They should get off the damn court.‴
Smith also ran a basketball camp and gave motivational speeches at schools in the Louisville area.
``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.″