The sports world lost one of its greatest coaches last week when Dean Smith, former men’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, passed away. I wrote about Dean Smith one year ago when I heard about his struggles with dementia. You can read that post here, https://jvearle.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/leadership-lessons-from-dean-smith/.
Dean Smith was an incredibly successful basketball coach. But after he passed away last week, most of the stories I heard were about Dean Smith the person. A man of high integrity and character, Smith coached so that he could make his players’ lives better. He was committed to helping his players graduate and achieve their goals and dreams. Smith was also committed to social justice and he took personal risks to integrate the sport of basketball and the University of North Carolina. Phil Ford, one of Smith’s former players, said last week, “He was just being the good, honest guy, that wanted everyone to be treated fairly.” One story I heard last week was particularly poignant.
Back in 1948, as a high school basketball player, Dean Smith went to his high school principal and demanded that the school’s separate all black and all white teams be merged into one team. One year later, the school acted on his request and merged the teams. Then in 1967, Smith recruited Charlie Scott from New York to be the first African-American to attend UNC. Scott reflected on this last week: “Coach Smith never treated me like the first African-American to go to the University of North Carolina. It was all any person would want to be treated like – like everybody else.”
Dean Smith won 879 basketball games, including 13 ACC Championships, 11 Final Four appearances, and 2 National Championships. But I imagine Coach Smith is more proud of the fact that, last week, the conversation about his life focused on his being a father figure to his players and a man who was courageous in his fight for equality and social justice.
As leaders, let us strive to leave a lasting impact on the lives of those we lead. Let’s work everyday to be more than the wins, the profits, the sales, or the revenue. Let’s work to make sure one day they talk about our courage, our strength, and our commitment to caring about our team members.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. – Check out my website at http://www.jvearle.com and keep me in mind if you hear of any opportunities to share my thoughts on leadership.