Lucas: 1987 Dean Smith radio interview

By Adam Lucas | 4 Comment(s) | Posted

Every once in a while, the internet feels like a pretty cool invention. That's the case today, as there is some incredible content in this 1987 Dean Smith interview with UNC student radio station WXYC. First, some context:

The interview says it's from January 25, 1987. The game from "last night" that they refer to frequently in the beginning of the interview is a 92-55 whipping of Georgia Tech at the Smith Center.

Coach Smith mentions the probability that Kenny Smith will return in Carolina's next game. Indeed, the senior point guard did return from arthroscopic knee surgery, and he managed to score 41 points (on 14-of-19 shooting, and 6-of-9 from three-point range) at Clemson in a 108-99 Tar Heel win. 

That intro song: No idea. The interviewers mention that the song is from roughly 10 years ago, which puts it at around 1977. Anyone have any clue? The "seven-foot tall" reference makes me think it was more likely to have been written in the Ralph Sampson era in the early 1980s.

Also, you can totally imagine the two hosts thinking it was hilarious to play this as the intro for a Dean Smith interview...and then being crestfallen when he said he didn't really listen to it.

4:50: "You guys don't get many calls here, do you?" Can you imagine the head coach of a major program like Carolina taking live calls at the student radio station today? Wow. 1987 was 26 years ago, and this scenario makes it feel every bit like a quarter-century ago.

5:20: Coach Smith answers a question about freshman sensation J.R. Reid, who was headed for the cover of Sports Illustrated, by quickly mentioning Reid and then going on to name the following players: Joe Wolf, Kenny Smith, Dave Popson, Jeff Lebo, Curtis Hunter, Scott Williams, Ranzino Smith and Steve Bucknall. This is a classic Smith move. I feel certain that after Kenny Smith scored 41 points at Clemson, Coach Smith opened the press conference by noting how many screens Popson set to get Smith open. This is also known as the "Pat had a good game" phenomenon, because during the Pat Sullivan era, no matter whether George Lynch had posted a double-double, Jerry Stackhouse had reverse dunked on someone (or pair of someones) or Rasheed Wallace had thrown down an alley-oop, Coach Smith always managed to say, "Pat had a good game" sometime during the postgame press conference.

7:10: Nice explanation from Coach Smith on the much-discussed policy of not letting freshmen talk to the media until their first varsity game.

9:30: "Every player on the varsity should get the exact same." The rule Coach Smith references is the one that cut men's basketball scholarships from 15 to 13, which did indeed do exactly what he feared--prevent him from being able to offer scholarships to every player on the team.

13:00: First call is about recruiting. OK, maybe nothing has changed at all in the last 26 years.

15:30: Caller: "Might Kenny Smith dump Gatorade on you at some point this season?" Coach Smith: "He knows better, if he wants help talking to pro teams after this season."

19:00: You've probably heard that Dean Smith was against freshman eligibility. This is a nice of summation of his position.

28:20: "Deano, we love you." Followed by a question wanting to know how tight Dean Smith and Dick Vitale are socially. Despite the odd question, Coach Smith does provide a thoughtful answer on Vitale's relevance to college basketball.

31:25: Straight from a 1980s time capsule: a PSA featuring Webster. For those staring blankly at the screen right now:

Holy cow. I may be the oldest person in the world.

32:45: Nice summary of Coach Smith's feelings on the importance of seniors. "I hope I'll have other teams, and this is their last go-around, so we let them have a lot of say in all that we do."


  1. John Sherer's avatar
    John Sherer
    | Permalink
    Nice piece. Makes me miss Coach a great deal. Quick correction: The student radio station was and remains wxyc (not wxyz).
  2. Chris Lawson's avatar
    Chris Lawson
    | Permalink
    Thanks SO MUCH for finding this Adam.. I am 39 and I remember getting early Sunday mornings to listen/watch the UNC basketball show.. just to listen to Dean Smith.. I was 13 in 87 and had listened on radio and/or on TV. No one made me do this.. I just wanted to listen to whatever he had to say.. I was a fan of UNC basketball first (1982 till now) but listening to Coach made me a endearing fan of his.. I remember that 86-87 team well.. (and next year I would cry my eyes out when they lost to Syracuse..)

    I really miss hearing him and how he always deflected attention away from himself and onto others..whether it be his team or even right down to a secretary or even just a little fan like me.. I enjoyed this journey back to my childhood.. hearing a Dean Smith interview from 1987.. Thanks so much for finding this..! CL
  3. Michael Norwood's avatar
    Michael Norwood
    | Permalink
    Wow. Someone just sent this to me. I really miss Coach.
  4. Jake's avatar
    | Permalink
    Tree Rollins was a 7 footer.

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