From the 4 Corners of the World: The Legacy of Dean Smith

Updated: February 9, 2015

“There is not one single thing I could ever tell you about Dean Smith that would do that man justice.” -John Thompson

NORTH CAROLINA-(BASN)-I am going to upset some people with this article.

But, I have to keep it real.

Therefore, for those die-hard Carolina fans, I am not a devil-worshipper, which means, I am not a Duke Blue Devils fan.

With that said, first and foremost, I would like to give my condolences to the Smith family during their time of loss and grief, along with all of the athletes, who Dean Smith coached in the past, as well as his extended Carolina Blue family.

Truly, without argument, Coach Smith has had a great impact on college basketball and the way the game is played.deansx

However, despite Smith’s unlimited wisdom and wins, which in his legendary career, totaled 879, along with 13 ACC Championships, he did not, I repeat, did not create the “four corners.”

Sorry Tar Heel fans…

But, I won’t allow this lie to linger on even in death, especially during Black History Month.

Why? Because, as the Adolph Hitler stated, ‘If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.’

So, therefore, let me nip this in the bud, now…before another generation of ballers, are misled by the mainstream media, like NBC’s News anchor Brian William did this week, with his claims of being forced down by snipers, while flying in a helicopter in Iraq?

dean4Honestly, point blank period,  the real inventor of the “four corners” offense was Dr.John McLendon, who coached at North Carolina College (North Carolina Central) in Durham from 1941 to 1952.

Yes, despite, what ESPN is reporting, Coach McLendon pioneered basketball’s full court game, using such strategies as the full court press, the full court zone (now known as the zone press), the open center of­fense whose variants include the “four corners,” the rotating pivot, and the double-pivot, according to

I suggest that all of you non-believers, who adorn Carolina Blue to watch the film “Black Magic,” which is a remarkable four-hour documentary directed by Dan Klores and produced by Earl Monroe, Libby Geist and David Zieff, which oddly enough aired on ESPN.

And, even though, I respect Smith  for being the first coach to desire to integrate ACC Basketball, by recruiting Charlie Scott in 1966, when the University of Chapel Hill was as racist as any other southern school in the south, in order to collect a lot of wins and establish UNC as an economic and athletic powerhouse.dean3

I, however, feel terrible that with Scott becoming the first African-American scholarship player at North Carolina, recruited by Dean Smith, that other top-notched Black athletes followed his lead, which literally destroyed Historical Black Colleges and Universities leverage to recruit them.

The Legendary Coach Clarence “BigHouse” Gaines’s, who coached basketball at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) from 1946 to 1993, where he compiled up 828 wins, eight CIAA titles, and one Division II NCAA Championship 1967, which made the Rams the first basketball program from a historically Black college or university to capture an NCAA national championship, wife Clara Gaines, seemed to have agreed with me when she said,

“In the end we just all wish that integration hadn’t taken place. Because it did change things.”

Yes, with Black athletes like Scott going to UNC, with the help of Smith, college basketball did change, whether for the better or the worse, depending on your vintage point.

Honestly, in my opinion, it was a freshman from Laney High School in Wilmington, N.C. named Michael Jordan, who made Smith a household name in 1982.


This, however, is debatable, like which came first, the chicken or the egg, on whether Dean Smith made Michael Jordan, or dennisxMichael Jordan made Dean Smith.

“He was more than a coach,” Jordan said in a statement. “He was my mentor, my teacher, my second father.”

Despite coaching NBA Hall-of-Fame players like Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, James Worthy, and Billy Cunningham, Smith was only able to mustard up two NCAA Titles, which, in my opinion, were by default.

I am not hating.

I know, a win is a win.

But, let’s remember, the 1982, UNC Championship victory came at the hand of Georgetown point guard Fred Brown, who blindly tossed the ball to James Worthy in the closing seconds.

Plus, let’s not forget, UNC’s 1993 NCAA title win against Michigan, when FAB-5’s Chris Webber made his infamous timeout-with no timeouts.dennis8

My point is, if it wasn’t for these two odd plays, Smith would have gone title-less, despite all of his alleged basketball brilliance.

Therefore, maybe the headline that read, “Smith was a better man than coach..,”  is true after all.

I am just saying…..

Rest in Peace Coach Smith.

May your spirit live on, in the Dean Dome, in North Carolina, and  around the “four corners of the world,” thanks to Dr..John McLendon.

Eric D. Graham, a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, where he earned a B.A. in Mass Communication with a concentration in Radio and Television and a minor in History, with an emphasis in African-American Studies, is currently the Managing Editor of BASN, where his thought-provoking articles appear on a daily basis. To contact him e-mail at

One Comment

  1. troy

    February 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    As a UNC fan of 40 years, every coach who has coached the game of basketball has at one point and time taken a little of what they learned from another. In the case of Coach McLendon he had many interactions with Coach Smith about basketball , they were both Kansas alums coaching basketball in NC, so yes McLendon did invent the 4 corners, but Smith utilized because McLendon teams were uptempo teams, sort of like John Thompson’s Hoyas. Now as for MJ makin Coach Smith a household name, now come on u know better than that, but maybe you are not from NC because here Coach Smith was revered before we even heard of a MJ. If anything it was Phil Ford who made Coach because he perfected his system. Not all of us BBall fans are ignorant to the facts, but u my friend can’t go off if , ands, and buts because who to say that GU or Michigan would have scored. Also u didn’t mention that Webber traveled before he crossed half court (check the tape).

Leave a Reply

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *