By Dr. John Ed Mathison
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries
I was preaching 10 days ago in the Raleigh/Durham area at Cary, North Carolina. The first news that greeted me upon my arrival was the death of Coach Dean Smith, legendary coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
A coach can die – but his coaching lessons can continue through the people he influenced. You know all about Coach Smith’s National Championship teams, his award from the President, his Hall of Fame induction, his number of wins, the number of famous players he coached – but here are a few things that you might not know that are good lessons to learn:
- As a coach he did not use profanity and had a no tolerance policy for profanity in his program. Wow! How many coaches and business leaders could learn a real lesson here?
- He focused on teamwork instead of individual statistics. Whenever a player made a shot, he always had that player point to the player who passed him the ball. Getting the ball to him was as important as his scoring. Anything we accomplish is the result of somebody else’s help. If you see a turtle sitting on a stump, you know he didn’t get there by himself!
- 96% of his players graduated. He didn’t look at basketball as just an athletic game, but as a way to educate young men. Part of that process was going to class and getting a degree. And he did a lot of educating himself.
- He valued his players as people. He loved them and cared for them. I heard that on one occasion the University President was in his office talking with him and there was a knock on the door and it was one of his basketball players. He asked the University President to step outside while he talked with his player. His players took precedent over even the President! What if every boss had that emphasis?
- He was not prejudiced. He believed that every person was a child of God and should have an equal opportunity. He recruited the first African-American basketball player to receive a North Carolina athletic scholarship. It was not a popular thing to do, but he said it was the right thing to do! When you read the comments of some of his great players like Michael Jordan and James Worthy, you get the sense that there was not an ounce of prejudice in him.
- He spoke up for issues of justice. As a basketball coach he could have just been quiet on a lot of social issues. He elected to speak out. His pastor, Rev. Robert Seymour, said that he was always willing to take controversial stands on a number of things as a member of his church.
- He lived his philosophy of life. The winningest college basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, said, “His greatest gift was his ability to teach what it takes to become a good man. That was easy for him to do because he was a great man himself.”
- He supported great causes. I have two buddies who have been a part of the Tar Heel basketball program. Both have spoken at Frazer. Albert Long is the only player in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference to letter in four sports in one year. He lettered in basketball, baseball, football, and track. The other is Dr. Danny Lotz. He was a preacher’s son from New York who came to North Carolina and played on the undefeated National title team. Danny and Albert wanted to start a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group at UNC. Dean Smith volunteered to serve as the faculty advisor.
Here are 8 coaching lessons that will be true tomorrow and help anybody win in the game of life! The coaching continues. Are you coachable?
John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.
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