Last Saturday, one of the truly great coaches in all of sports passed away. Dean Smith will be remembered for a lot of things, both on and off the court. To this writer, however, he will be remembered for one thing – the HUMILITY with which he carried himself.
As I have been writing the Winning with Class book, I have been extremely fortunate in terms of the athletes and coaches and others who have been gracious enough to give me some of their time for interviews. Of course, I have had my share of rejections as well. They come in the form of vague responses and sometimes with no response at all. This is completely understandable, as a lot of the people to whom I make requests barely have time for their own families, much less for a no-name author who wants some of their almost non-existent “down time.”
Dean Smith turned down my request for an interview. He did it with a hand-written note. However, he did not turn it down because of a lack of interest in the book – he could not have been more complimentary on the topic. And, he did not turn it down because of a lack of time, as he was retired from coaching. Instead, Coach Smith turned down the opportunity to be included in Winning with Class because he felt it would seem as though he was bragging.
This was and remains the only time this reason was given to me as a reason for not participating in the book. My reaction? I was proud to have a hand-written note from such a person – a person for whom I had even more respect than when I first approached him.
In a world that is at times seemingly full of those more than willing to go out of their way to brag, it was incredibly refreshing to come across a person who was genuinely concerned about being labeled in such a way. Humility is not an easy notion to master – especially in the sports world. Coach Smith showed, however, that you truly can Win with Humility. He didn’t curse. He didn’t talk trash. He insisted on a scorer giving credit to an assisting teammate with a point of the finger. He prepared his players for games and for life. Then, he let the results that followed the hard work and preparation speak for themselves. Bragging was not only not preferred, but simply was not necessary.
I’ve learned a lot about the coach in the days following his passing by way of all that has been written about him since he left us. However, I did not have to learn about one of his most defining characteristics – that of the humility with which he lived his life. I already had a good understanding of that one. Thanks, Coach. RIP.