Copyright © 1997, Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon, 17 Mar 1997 07:09:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Random Thought: 877

877. That's the number of career wins reached this weekend during the NCAA tournament by Dean Smith, basketball coach at the University of North Carolina. The accolades poured in and the testimonials poured out as he became the winningest coach in the history of college basketball.
One simple, profound comment summed up all the reason for and the true meaning of the sincere praise, "Dean Smith: to his players, a coach, a father, a friend.."
Many people--players, fellow-coaches, normally cynical and hardened sports writers, avid fans, anyone who has come into contact with him or those who were on his teams--understand that there are records and there are records. This record by a truly humble man who never curses, who acknowledge that his accomplishments rest with his players, whose program these 35 yearshas remained squeaky clean, is more than about winning basketball games. The fact that his old players--without any urging from a public-relations minded athletic director--did everything possible under the sun to get tickets to Saturday's game, were willing to travel long distances and put their lives momentarily on hold, wanted to be in the collesium on the campus of Wake Forrest and share with Dean Smith in his achievement shows that this record is more about people than basketball.
And if I can add my little whisper of praise, during those years in the early 1960s, when I was a graduate student and had the honor--yes, honor--of helping tutor some of the players on the basketball team, I came to see personally the real meaning of all this applause for Dean Smith. For him, it was never merely about basketball and basketball players; it far more was about life and people. For him, it was never merely about making his players better basketball players; it was more about making them better persons. The stories abound--one or two of which I was a part--bearing witness that he truly cares for each player--whether a starter or pernnial bench warmer everyone is important to him--as a whole human being, touching people, impacting on lives, making a difference. The memories and relfections stand as testimony that his love for his players and involvement with them never was confined to the basketball season, never was limited to the basketball court, extended far beyond their tenure as a player at UNC, never ceased. "Dean Smith: to his players, a coach, a father, a friend."
And it got me wondering all this weekend about how this can be or will be said about each of us in the classroom. I thought about how it is that so many--far, far too many--of us academics have missed the boat on this simple truth that Dean Smith see so clearly; how so, so many of us coldly proclaim that our task in the classroom is limited transmitting information and merely striving to instil in students something called "subject mastery"; how easy it is for so many to so love their subject and so callously treat their students; how easy it is for so many to warmly hug the material and so coldy keep students at arm's length; how so many know their subject while students remain strangers in their classrooms; how so many are engaged with their subject and so disengaged with students; how so many denounce efforts to engage in the task of communicating with, caring about, loving other human beings who happen to be in the role of students as "touchy-feely" nonense; how so many practice distance education by asserting they cannot befriend students and still properly educate them; how so many clinically declare that "interpersonal" relationships are inappropriate in the classroom; how so many rush to declare that they are in such a rush that they don't have time for that one student; how they clinical declare that student problems, however they may impact on performance, is not their concern; how they refuse to grasp the full sense of value of their students' lives and treat their students as one-dimensional decals slapped on the cover of a notebook rather than as whole people; how the vision of so many are myopically limited to subject, the classroom, and a particular course; how Dean Smith's basketball court is a far, far more a viable place of education than so many of our academic classroom.
Yeah, it makes me wonder how it is that this successful and beloved coach- of something as supposely inconsequential as basketball-whose players have gone on to be stars in professional basketball, in business, in other professions, in life--knows what so many of us supposed educators and teachers haven't yet begun to figure out: that people are far more important than basketball; that winning in the game of life is far more important and meaningful than winning a basketball game. Maybe Dean Smith ought to give a bunch of us academics a summer clinic or two in education, people, and life.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

Return to The Complete Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to The Random Thoughts of Louis Schmier
Return to Arbor Heights Elementary School