The late North Carolina Tar Heels head men's basketball coach Dean Smith requested the distribution of $200 checks to each of his varsity lettermen before he died on Feb. 7.
The late North Carolina head men's basketball coach Dean Smith had a special parting gift for each of his varsity lettermen before his death last month.
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According to The Durham Herald-Sun's John McCann, Smith requested checks worth $200 each be given to each of the varsity lettermen he coached. McCann says "Smith wanted his players to enjoy dinner on him."
One of his lawyers, Tim Breedlove of the Dean E. Smith Revocable Trust, sent the checks to his former players. NewsOberserver.com's Andrew Carter spoke with Breedlove by phone on Thursday to confirm the authenticity of the checks. Each of the checks had a corresponding letter. They were 180 in all.
"This was the kind of man he was," Breedlove told ESPN's Darren Rovell on March 26. "It's one more example of his thoughtfulness."
Jeb Barlow, who played for Smith from 1980-82, was caught completely off guard, per ESPN. "We never expected anything like this," he said. "But it doesn't surprise me that this was done."
Serge Zwikker, who suited up for the Tar Heels from 1993-97, told Rovell the publicity Smith's act has garnered would not have been the way he wanted it had he still been alive. Zwikker also added he will donate Smith's check to charity:
"My wife opened the letter and handed it to me. At first I didn't know what it was, but when it hit me, it put a tear in my eye. Even after he passed, he was still all about his players.
"It's just not the way he would have wanted it. I know he would have preferred to keep it quiet.
"I don't think I can cash this. If anything, I will donate it to a good cause."
Former North Carolina Tar Heels guard Jimmy Smith received his in the mail on Wednesday, March 25. He told McCann his son opened their mail box and gave the check to him. Smith was stunned, to say the least.
"It stunned me and brought a tear to my eye, so I just handed it to my wife," Black told The Durham Herald-Sun.
Smith taught his players to give credit to a teammate who registered an assist on a basket they scored by pointing at him. This is a practice today's Tar Heels players still do. As for Black, he told McCann he pointed his index finger toward the sky as a sign of gratitude for his beloved former head coach.
"Absolutely," Black told The Durham Herald-Sun. "Actually, mine is being donated to three of my favorite charities."
More specifically, those three charities are the Durham Rescue Mission, Meals on Wheels and RBC Ministries.
Black told McCann it's hard to find another Dean Smith in this lifetime:
"That's just a testament to a great person that will never be replaced. I had no idea. Absolutely stunned.
"We will never see this again. We will never see that type of person again, at least I won't. I hope my children do. But I won't."
Breedlove confided to Carter he is still trying to track down the addresses of Smith's other players.
Black was a member of North Carolina's 1982 national championship team alongside future NBA greats Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and James Worthy, per McCann.
Smith passed away at the age of 83 on Feb. 7, according to NewsObserver.com's Chip Alexander. Smith amassed a 879-254 (.776) win-loss record in 36 years as North Carolina Tar Heels head men's basketball coach. He won two national titles (1982 and 1993) along the way, per Sports-Reference.com.
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