The basketball world lost a giant on Saturday with former University of North Carolina head coach Dean Smith passing away at the age of 83.
The Los Angeles Lakers franchise has a lot of ties to Smith and the University of North Carolina starting with longtime general manager Mitch Kupchak. The 60-year-old is a former Tar Heel that remained close to Smith and had this to say about his former coach and mentor in a statement from the Lakers organization:
“Coach Smith was one of the most influential people in my life, and his passing brings me great sadness, Kupchak said in press release from the Lakers on Dean Smith’s passing. “However, he was a great man and someone I loved and respected greatly, and I celebrate the fact that I knew him and had him in my life for as long as I did. His influence on my life didn’t end when I left Chapel Hill, as he was a trusted and valuable advisor to me when I became a player, then an executive in the NBA. He had a hugely positive impact on the lives of hundreds of young men who were lucky enough to call him Coach, and I was blessed to be among them.”
Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant also showed some respect for Smith taking to Twitter and tweeting out in the following on Sunday:
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 8, 2015
Former Tar Heel Wayne Ellington also mourned the loss of the North Carolina on Twitter:
Hate waking up to bad news. Sad day in Tar Heel family. RIP Coach Dean Smith.
— Wayne Ellington (@WayneElli22) February 8, 2015
Hall of Famer James Worthy won a NCAA title alongside Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins back in 1982. It was one of two titles Smith won as the head coach of North Carolina with his second coming in 1993. Worthy tweeted the following about his former coach:
There are so many things I could say about Coach Dean Smith but simply put, he is the greatest man I've ever known. pic.twitter.com/tWaE2LPYpK
— James Worthy (@JamesWorthy42) February 8, 2015
The Lakers have had their fair share of Tar Heels over the years. From Bob McAdoo, Worthy, Kupchak, Perkins, George Lynch and Rick Fox to current Lakers in Ellington and Ed Davis. North Carolina to Los Angeles has been common path for great players of the past and that could continue with Smith being a major reason for the school’s success.
Even Kobe admitted recently that would’ve gone to North Carolina had he chosen to go to college rather than jumping from Lower Merion High School straight to the NBA.
Smith is survived by his wife, Linnea, along with four daughters and one son.[divide]
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