Basketball legend Dean Smith, who died in February at 83, remembered all varsity letter winners for him in his 36 year coaching career at North Carolina by leaving them each $200 in his will.
Tim Breedlove, the trustee of Smith’s trust, told ESPN.com that the $200 checks were mailed on Monday to about 180 former players. The coach even sent checks to Michael Jordan and Vince Carter, the former a billionaire and the latter the recipient of more than $150 million from NBA teams over the course of his career.
Brad Daugherty, a four-year letter winner under Coach Smith and the NBA’s number-one draft choice in 1986, told ESPN that when he received Smith’s check it came in a white envelope that he figured was just another bill to pay.
“It was a letter and a check from Coach Smith. The check was for $200 and it said ‘Dinner out.’ It was in Coach Smith fashion, he was giving direct directions.… It stunned me it absolutely stunned me. Because this is someone I find to be a remarkable human being who I love dearly and someone I already miss,” the former center for the Cavaliers said.
Daugherty says he’s not going to be spending the check on dinner, but instead will be framing it and hanging it on the wall in his office.
Serge Zwikker, who played for Smith from 1993-1997 and played one year in the NBA for the Rockets, said that he was moved when he got the letter from Smith. “My wife opened the letter and handed it to me. At first I didn’t know what it was, but when it hit me, it put a tear in my eye. Even after he passed, he was still all about his players,” he said.
Zwikker has mixed feelings about Smith’s remembrance checks to his players becoming public. “It’s just not the way he would have wanted it,” the seven-foot-two-inch Netherlands native said. “I know he would have preferred to keep it quiet.”
Zwikker also said the $200 check may never make its way to the bank. “I don’t think I can cash this,” he said. “If anything, I will donate it to a good cause.”
In February former Tar Heels player under Smith and current Williams and Mary’s head coach Tony Shaver said about “The Legend” after he learned of Smith’s death, “There was such a presence about the man. I mean, literally, if he walked in this room right now, I would sit up a little straighter, I would try to speak a little more clearly. … Outside of my father, he had more impact on my life than any other man.”
During his time as a head coach Smith brought the Tar Heels to 11 Final Four appearances, won 879 games, two national titles, an Olympic gold medal (1976), 13 ACC tournament titles, and 17 ACC regular season titles.