Dean Smith Produced Stats Breakthrough; His Players, 332,066 NBA Points

In the 1950s, Dean Smith, a math major and assistant coach to Frank McGuire at UNC, moved three decades ahead of his time when he wrote that “points per possession” played as the key stat—the entire basis for every basketball stats innovation from Dean Oliver’s Basketball on Paper to www.kenpom.com to my own www.valueaddbasketball.com measurements of players.

Vince Carter’s 20-foot jumper for the Memphis Grizzlies on January 29 gave Smith-coached players 332,066 points in the NBA. The NBA stats for all 52 of his players are listed at the bottom of the article.

The Wall Street Journal today quoted Dean Oliver, considered the godfather of modern basketball stats due to the 1988 book, as saying he did not realize until after writing the book that Smith had already discovered it three decades earlier.

His innovations in understanding how basketball games are won was coupled with his incredible innovations on the court such as the 1-3-1 zone, four-corners offense, huddling before free throws to plan how to box out opponents and not give up a rebound, and many others. But even Smith learned in his first year of head coaching that you need quality players—as he suffered the only losing record of his 36-year career because the first of his 52 future NBA players had to play for UNC’s freshmen team.

McGuire, the older brother of the coach who would defeat Smith in the 1977 title game, left Smith with his first future NBA player in Billy Cunningham, whom he had met after taking over from McGuire as head coach at Chapel Hill in the Fall of 1961. According the NBA Encyclopedia Cunningham “was all skin and bones, a freckle-faced redhead with a clumsy, pigeon-toed gait,” and Smith remembers thinking, “Oh my God. How in the world can this kid play ball? He can’t even walk.”

NCAA rules at the time made Cunningham play on UNC’s freshman team that first year, where he scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds a game while the varsity squad fell one game below .500. In his first year playing for Smith, Cunningham had 27 rebounds in one game against Clemson en route to three dominating years (career more than 24 points and 15 rebounds per game at UNC) and went on to be ranked one of the Top 100 players in the history of the NBA by Basketball Reference while going to All-Star games and winning titles with the 76ers as a player and later as their coach. A Breitbart Sports analysis of other stats at Basketball Reference is the basis for the table at the bottom of the story of all of Smith’s NBA players.

Smith would recruit 51 more players that he would mold into NBA players, including Bob McAdoo, Sam Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and, of course Michael Jordan, who referred to Smith as “a second father” today in a statement.

Smith’s final team in 1996-97 included 2nd team All-American Antawn Jamison (19.1 points, 9.4 rebounds), Vince Carter (13.0, 4.5) Shammond Williams (14.1, 3.3, 153 assists), and a young Makhtar N’Diaye (1.8, 1.6). All four went onto play in the NBA, with Carter being the last active. That season Smith’s Tar Heels were edged out by Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke and Tim Duncan’s Wake Forest to finish 3rd in the ACC but 4th in the country. It was the 33rd straight season he had finished in the top three of the very tough ACC.

Those four delivered Smith’s final win in the 1997 Elite 8, when he destroyed Louisville 97-74 to make his 11th Final Four, matched only by John Wooden (12) and Krzyzewski (11).

Smith’s last 31 seasons his UNC teams reached 8th or higher in the AP poll every year, and finished ranked in all but two of those seasons—winning the national title twice. The following are the NBA stats for the 52 players who played under Smith. Carter is the last one active, and he was injured after the January 29th game.

Player Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks
Dean’s Players in NBA 332066 118284 67395 21716 11704
Michael Jordan 32292 6672 5633 2514 893
Vince Carter 23456 5718 4300 1312 754
Antawn Jamison 20042 8157 1761 1048 421
Walter Davis 19521 3053 3878 1280 133
Bob McAdoo 18787 8048 1951 751 1147
Jerry Stackhouse 16409 3067 3240 869 437
James Worthy 16320 4708 2791 1041 624
Billy Cunningham 16310 7981 3305 390 66
Rasheed Wallace 16006 7404 1994 1090 1460
Sam Perkins 15324 7666 1975 1105 933
Charlie Scott 14837 2846 3515 608 152
Bobby Jones 11391 5739 2522 1387 1319
Brad Daugherty 10389 5227 2028 422 397
Kenny Smith 9397 1454 4073 759 65
Rick Fox 8966 3517 2649 967 355
Larry Miller 6595 2434 1155 57 6
Doug Moe 6161 2560 1197
J.R. Reid 5680 3381 639 514 264
Phil Ford 5594 854 3083 589 29
Hubert Davis 5583 1045 1172 297 44
Jeff McInnis 5396 1170 2514 371 31
Mitch Kupchak 5202 2730 377 164 176
George Lynch 5109 3902 1121 817 258
Al Wood 4902 1262 742 310 159
Larry Brown 4229 1005 2509
Scott Williams 3825 3506 431 393 421
Mike O’Koren 3355 1391 856 311 89
Dudley Bradley 3131 1098 1147 940 182
Pete Chilcutt 2494 1935 488 267 210
Joe Wolf 2485 1933 596 257 131
Tom LaGarde 2376 1593 456 94 131
Eric Montross 2071 2159 207 122 275
Shammond Williams 1892 518 765 196 14
George Karl 1703 369 795 232 20
Bobby Lewis 1481 533 555
Dennis Wuycik 684 323 128 22 5
Bill Bunting 623 417 95
Darrell Elston 601 169 204 83 9
John Kuester 451 141 305 83 3
Bill Chamberlain 415 198 113 20 12
Donald Washington 220 102 33 13 20
Geoff Crompton 99 139 28 10 23
Dave Popson 76 46 13 4 6
Stephen Previs 55 14 24
Kevin Salvadori 42 45 13 2 24
Rich Yonakor 33 27 3 1 2
Steve Bucknall 23 7 10 2 1
Matt Wenstrom 18 12 0 0 2
Jeff Lebo 6 4 3 2 0
Makhtar N’Diaye 5 5 1 0 1
Dick Grubar 4 0 1
Derrick Phelps 0 0 1 0 0


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