The passing of former North Carolina coach Dean Smith was noted on the board the other day, but I had seen nothing here that underlined what a powerful figure he was, including in his contributions to both civil rights and the evolution of the game itself.
I found this wonderful appreciation of Smith at CBS Sports, an easy and pleasurable read with lots of links and a great interview of him and John Thompson, and thought I'd share it. Note that Smith's coaching tree pretty much takes in everyone, going back to Phog Allen and the game's inventor, James Naismith. Even more than John Wooden--who himself called Smith the greatest coach ever--Smith may well be the single most towering figure in the history of the sport. The appreciations of him by the likes of Michael Jordan and Duke's Coach K are pretty touching:
Spike Albrecht has become one of my all-time favorites. The fact that he looks like he should be delivering my groceries instead of making Sportscenter highlights in D-1 college basketball makes it all the better. The guy is pissed to lose! So, let's play a game. Name your all-time Michigan basketball All-Grit players. Doesn't have to be just five guys, or five positions. The bench is deep. My first group without thinking about it too much.
So obviously this year is a dud, and it's hard to blame anyone what with the losses to the NBA and injuries. But what does next year hold, and the year after?
If history is anything to go by, Levert is probably gone to the NBA. But if Duncan Robinson is as good as they claim, and if a healthly Walton takes a significant step forward, I'm willing to believe they could be pretty good next year. But is it enough to make a deep run in the tourney?
One thing that concerns me is the lack of athletic big men on the roster. Last year in the tourney they clearly got dominated in the paint by Kentucky in spite of an experienced uber-defender in Jordan Morgan. If D.J. Wilson comes through next year that would be nice... but how many teams have made it to the national championship in recent memory with nobody over 6'9'' on the roster?