Wednesday marks the three-year anniversary of Coach Dean Smith’s passing. Hard to believe it was that long ago already.
The Story Behind the Object
Warning. I’m going to struggle a bit with the details and timeline of this story. When you’re in your mid-30s, the years all seem to kind of run together. My apologies. You know what, let’s just go ahead and get most of the murkiness out of the way right now.
Here is the sentence I’d like to type: For my birthday in 2006, my wife gave me a poster of Dean Smith and Roy Williams.
But here is the sentence that is actually true: Sometime around 10ish years ago, my wife or my parents or my in-laws or some other relative gave me a poster of Dean Smith and Roy Williams as either a birthday or Christmas gift. Truthfully, all I know for sure is that it’s a poster of Dean and Roy. And if it weren’t hanging on my wall for easy reference, I’d probably be thinking, “But wait, was it actually Dean and Gut? Or, hang on, was Frank McGuire on there somewhere?”
Despite not being 100 percent sure about many of the facts, I’ve put on my gumshoe hat to make my exact guesses based on some context clues. (Side note: where does the term “gumshoe” come from? And did anyone else watch a lot of Carmen San Diego growing up?)
At any rate, I know that after I received the poster, someone (honestly no idea who, so let’s not even go down the rabbit hole of trying to solve that mystery) told me that if I dropped it off at the basketball office, the coaches pictured would sign it for me. I’m fairly confident that I found this easy to accomplish due to the fact that I was getting my Masters in Accounting at the time, meaning that I walked past the basketball office every day. I was in the MAC program from August 2006 to May 2007. So my assumption is that I received the poster in either September 2006 (my birthday) or December 2006 (Christmas).
After receiving the poster, I dropped by the basketball office. I waltzed in with an air of knowing exactly what I was doing and said, “Yo, heard my main man Roy would sign this, where’s his office? I’ll just walk in and get him to autograph it while I wait.” Kidding. It was more of a super hesitant am-I-even-supposed-to-be-in-here walk up to a receptionist, followed by a timid “Do you think it would be possible to get Coach Smith and Coach Williams to sign this?” stammer. I was informed that this could, in fact, be done, and I just needed to write my name and address on the cardboard canister holding the poster so they could mail it back to me.
This is where I make some educated guesses again. I’m pretty sure that I dropped the poster off soon after receiving it and received it back in the mail a couple of weeks later, implying that it was the offseason (more on exactly how I can be so confident of that momentarily). If it was the offseason, that means I received the poster for my birthday (September) and not Christmas (December).
When the poster came back in the mail, I opened the canister with excitement. Carefully removing it, I unrolled it to reveal “Best wishes! Roy Williams” written in black ink across Roy’s white vest, and… Nothing else. My heart sank. My stomach dropped. No Dean Smith signature anywhere to be found. Now, no offense to Roy, but back in 2006 (when I’m fairly confident this whole scenario unfolded), I didn’t have the same affinity for him that I do now. Not that I didn’t like him, but he had only been the head coach for three seasons. Sure, he’d won a title. But he hadn’t been here for 30-plus seasons and won two titles. He, sir, was no Jack Kennedy - I mean, Dean Smith. He was no Dean Smith.
So, if memory serves, I called up the basketball office and screamed at the top of my lungs, “I TOLD YOU TO HAVE THE DEAN OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL SIGN THIS POSTER AND YOU FAILED. YOU’RE FIRED!” Actually, I may be remembering it a little more forceful than it actually was. It’s possible it was more of a meek whisper of “I, um, was kind of hoping, if it wasn’t too much trouble, that, you know, maybe, if possible, that Coach Smith would be able to sign this - but he didn’t. Does he not do that anymore?”
At this point, I was informed it must have been a mistake, and if I’d just drop it back by that he’d gladly sign it. However, the season was starting up now, and they only sign during the offseason (see above), so it would have to wait until the conclusion of the season. So back to the basketball office went to the poster.
A couple of columns ago, I referenced that I can quote large chunks of shows and movies, yet somehow still be genuinely surprised by the plot. Similarly, I can also remember random real-life quotes and exactly where I was when I heard (or said) them. And it’s because of that “gift” that I can recall where I was when, while watching a Carolina game with a friend, I told him that “if Dean Smith dies before the end of this basketball season it will be the worst thing to ever happen to me.” (I used to have a tendency to exaggerate from time to time.) When I made that declaration, I was sitting in the living room of a townhouse that I only lived in from May 2006 until December 2007 - another clue that I received the poster for my birthday in 2006. This is some real detective work you’re witnessing. I may have gone into the wrong profession. Maybe I could combine detective and finance professional... I’ve always thought being a “forensic accountant” (real career) would be cool.
Anyway, not to give this an anticlimactic ending, but long story short, at the end of the season, the poster was again mailed to my house, this time with the signature I wanted all along scrawled across it.
Carolina Collectibles Description
This poster has a blue border with “Legends…” written on the top and “believe in Blue” written on the bottom. It is a painting-style poster of a picture that I don’t believe is real. Roy is wearing a white vest with a whistle around his neck while holding a basketball, apparently looking off into the stands and smiling. Dean is behind/beside him in a suit and tie, smiling at the camera with his arm on Roy’s shoulder. That part of the painting may be a picture that exists somewhere, but I’m willing to bet that in the background of that picture you will not see Tyler Hansbrough dunking, which is the case in this poster.
As stated above, Roy signed across his white vest in black pen “Best wishes! Roy Williams.” Dean’s signature, in gray, reads “Best always! Dean Smith.” I’m well aware that these autographs were likely signed by these two men’s secretaries, but I’m fine with that. If they’ve granted these individuals permission to sign their names, it’s essentially the same as them signing their own names. Also, I have a game program that Roy Williams signed right in front of me and this signature is an exact match (to me, a non-handwriting examiner expert). I assume the Dean Smith autograph looks just like his real one, as well. They came directly from the basketball office, so they are legit enough for me.
Carolina Collectibles Comparison: The Carolina Coaching Tree
The funny thing about the Carolina Coaching Tree is that Dean Smith isn’t even a Carolina grad. We keep demanding our coaches have this Tar Heel connection, when the root of the tree went to Kansas. It’s odd, don’t you think?
That has nothing to do with my comparison. Just pointing it out. The comparison is just that there is always a lot of talk about the Carolina Coaching Tree, and when people walk into my “man cave” there is always a lot of talk about this poster which features two coaches from the Carolina Coaching Tree.
Carolina Collectibles Rating: 5 Stars
A poster signed by the best two coaches to ever roam the sidelines in Chapel Hill? And two of the best to ever coach college basketball in general? Doesn’t get any better than that.