It is a bittersweet week to be a college basketball fan. Heck, not even just for college basketball fans, but for people who love sports or love good people and/or interesting characters. The biggest story, obviously, is that the sport lost one of its most important, endearing and historical figure this week in Dean Smith. That’s not it, though. Another legendary coach, Jerry Tarkanian, lost his life on Wednesday in a Las Vegas hospital.
Many people have already weighed in on the importance of Dean Smith in far better essays than anything I could ever possibly write. I am basically a bad joke-smith, so you will have to forgive me for not even attempting to write something as elegant as other folks’ work out there. I suggest you use the Google device to find such wonderful articles. Still, I’ll attempt to tell a story related to him and why I hated the “coach” part of him in my younger years before becoming old enough to realize how he was a man among boys and used his influence — even before he really had any to wield — to make an everlasting impact on the state of North Carolina and humans everywhere.
One of my best friends growing up was a huge North Carolina fan. I never had any problems with UNC on my end, but my friend and I were hugely competitive as far as any sort of competition went. Whether it was video games (NFL Gameday was better than Madden at the time of our peak rivalry), one-on-one pickup games or vying for the affection of whoever we deemed crush-worthy. Looking back on it, it was all very silly, but let’s be clear about one thing; I won almost every time (I’m telling the story so f-him!).
I grew up a St. John’s fan. There was never really any reason for me to dislike UNC because of that. The Tar Heels played in the ACC and St. John’s in the Big East and the two teams very rarely played. However, what we did do — more often than I’d like to admit — was pretend we were whoever our particular favorite players were at the time and play one-on-one while doing so. It should be noted, though, that whatever player we picked, we then had to play his “style” of game. Example (I’ll choose an easy one that most will understand): If one of us were Marshall Henderson we would have to hurl shots from 25 feet out, regardless of circumstance, and kind of flail around while doing it.