In the last two weeks, two of the best coaches in college basketball history passed away, Dean Smith and Jerry Tarkanian. Each of these men had extraordinary success and were pioneers for the game of basketball.
Smith was the head coach for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1960 to 1997. He led the Tar Heels to more victories than any other coach in collegiate basketball history at the point of his retirement. Smith won two National Championships in 1982 and 1993, while coaching some of the most prolific players to ever touch a basketball.
A few of his most noteworthy players include Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Vince Carter and Charlie Scott. He accumulated a record of 879-254 over his tenure as coach of the Tar Heels, and left his mark on the community, but also the nation and basketball family.
As a talented player himself, Smith won a National Championship in 1952 during his college career as a Jayhawk at the University of Kansas.
It’s always sad to hear about the world losing someone so transcendent in their respective field. Smith was legendary and deserves the utmost respect and recognition.
Tarkanian is especially close to my love for basketball because I grew up watching him lead the Fresno State Bulldogs. I would go to all of the games, and he built a strong program that brought the Fresno community together.
My parents were close friends with Coach “Tark” and traveled with the team on occasion for a few conference tournaments. I’ll never forget watching the Bulldogs at Selland Arena in Fresno take on some of the top teams in the country. Tarkanian made such a positive impact at Fresno State that the campus was able to expand by adding the Save Mart Center, which the basketball team now competes in.
Tark also coached for the Long Beach State University 49ers and University of Nevada, Las Vegas Rebels, where he won a National Championship in 1990. He boasted a very respectable record during his coaching career, winning 761 games. He also led his teams to 18 NCAA Tournaments and four Final Four appearances during his 30-year career. He brought his team to a top five ranking in the nation during 10 of his 30 seasons.
It’s a shame that such legendary names in the history of basketball are no longer with us, but their legacies and impact will not be forgotten. My dad’s generation grew up watching these coaches and it’s crazy to think that time goes by so quickly.