I sat down on Tuesday with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith, the all-time winningest coach in college basketball history. I was fortunate enough to compete against Smith's great North Carolina teams as a player in the mid 1980s and as an assistant coach in the 1990s, and I can say without reservation that there has been no finer gentleman or coach in college basketball than Smith. People assume that, because the Duke-UNC rivalry is so intense, the participants don't like each other. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As an opposing player or coach, you wanted to compete against and try to beat North Carolina because they were the standard of excellence in the ACC and nationally, not because of some type of loathing of the Tar Heels' program. There is plenty to be jealous of in the Carolina program, but nothing to dislike. Dean Smith is, and always has been, a person and coach to be admired and respected. He represents everything that is good in college basketball, and he has been out front on issues of basketball innovation as well as social issues. Dean Smith is a man of substance, and he is one of the greatest coaches and teachers ever on the American sports landscape.