Compilation: Dean Smith Retirement Memories
Fifteen years ago today, Dean Smith announced his retirement and shocked the Carolina fan base. He had just piloted the 1996-97 squad from 0-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference to a Final Four berth. Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Ademola Okulaja, Shammond Williams and Ed Cota were all scheduled to return for what promised to be a loaded 1997-98 club. And then, suddenly...Coach Smith retired.
The press conference was held in the Skipper Bowles Room, and it was one of the most well-attended press conferences in school history. Students crowded around the upper levels of the room, trying to peer through windows to get a glimpse of the now-former head coach. Photographers snapped hundreds of pictures, staff members from the athletic department packed the walkway above the press conference area, and tears were shed--included, in a brief moment, by Smith himself when he tried to thank his players and staff.
You can watch the press conference here:
For Carolina fans of that era, it was a where-were-y0u-when moment. And that's exactly the question we asked on Twitter and Facebook today, to try and get a sense of how fans remember Coach Smith's retirement 15 years later. The responses, especially from those people who were on campus that day, are an oral history of one of the most important days in the history of the Tar Heel basketball program.
My frosh year. Tried to break into the natatorium to see press conference. Failed. Met Chancellor Hooker in the process. @jrt4unc
Went to class and a group of us went to the Rat for lunch and talked fav bball moments. Sad sr yr without Dean. @JohnNAderholdt
In the Student Union grabbing a drink. Skipped class to watch the press conference. @C_N_Graham
Learned about it seeing a DTH headline right in front of Kenan Stadium going to class from Ehringhaus to Phillips. @jjjones325
on campus. I remember the night before hearing the rumor in the undergrad and convincing myself it wasn't true. @jeffsmitts
I was in college at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR. I attended my scheduled afternoon class, only to ask the instructor beforehand if I could leave early to go back to my room and watch the news conference on TV. He declined. I took my seat.....then got up and walked out after 20 minutes so I could make it back to my room. Paul Gatling
I was watching WRAL 6:00 news with Bob Holliday, reporting live from UNC. I was hoping the rumors weren't true, as apparently many students were as well, because when Bob Holliday confirmed Dean Smith's retirement, we could hear shouts of dismay on campus. Kenna L. Walker
Wow! It's been 15 years?!?! I was a freshman in Hinton James. Heard the news and walked across the street to the Smith Center to join hundreds of other shocked students. Couldn't think of anything else to do other than just sit there. Drew Hardison
I was a freshman at UNC, standing on Franklin St. when I noticed that everyone was standing around, peeking through windows at TVs and someone told me why. I had been a lifelong fan and it was right then that I realized I would never get to see Dean Smith coach in person. So sad. Jessica Harris
I had the pleasure of covering that event ... for Technician, NCSU's student paper. It was THAT big of a day. @Matt_Lail
Took the day off work & went 2 Chapel Hill. Raised by a single mother & Coach was like a father figure 2 me. @ericmurphync
I was stationed at Ft. Stewart, GA. We were talking about it in the motor pool working on Bradley's. Won't forget. @unclifer
I was at work. My buddy called me and I turned on the TV in the bar. Got choked up, and had to go back to work. @heathman68
I was training at the National Training Center. I was promoted to E-5 that day. Good day and sad day all rolled into one. Rod Johnson
I came home from work to watch it by myself with eyes watering. I still get that same feeling every time I see Coach. Robert Ramsey
The younger generation
I was 6 years old at soccer practice. My mom cried. The significance was not lost on me. @SeanPetrizzi
In high school in Pennsylvania. Bawled my eyes out. No one else understood. @Jon_UNC
I was in Mrs. Cooley's 5th grade class watching the press conference... she said it was big enough news to stop class. @bradarb08 (Editor’s note: the world needs more Mrs. Cooley’s)
10 years old at a YMCA camp. Still remember everyone with those full page posters the N&O put out. Sad sad day. @mattbunn01
If they aren't already cutting onions somewhere near your computer, this should take care of that--Freddie Kiger's collaboration with UNC New Media that ran at the Celebration of a Century event. It's included on the 100 years of Carolina Basketball DVD.