Former NBA player Shane Battier reflects on the legacy of the late University of North Carolina basketball coach, whom he calls “a pillar” of leadership and honor. Battier recounts his experience being recruited by Smith and the fear he felt when he told Smith that he had chosen to attend Duke, UNC’s arch-rival.
Shane Battier: Coach Smith – what a pillar for not just college basketball but for sports. And his legacy is not championships. Obviously he won a bunch of championships and a bunch of games but I believe his legacy is the men that he produced. And if you’re talking to one of his players to a man he’ll tell you that they’re better fathers, they’re better husbands, they’re better people because of Coach Smith. And I had the great opportunity to be recruited by him before he retired and I’ll never forget the day that I committed to Duke University. And I had to call Coach Smith and tell him that I am going to his arch rival. So I’m all nervous and I said, “Coach, you know, I have so much respect for you and your program and I know I would have had a fantastic career at the University of North Carolina but unfortunately I’ve decided to go to Duke University.” And I’m sitting there and I’m going oh no, what’s he going to say? Is he going to be bitter? And he said, “You know Shane, you’re one of the classiest young men I’ve ever had a chance to recruit. I’ll be cheering for you except when we play Duke. And you’re going to do fantastic.” And he followed that up with a fantastic handwritten note to my parents and a fantastic handwritten note to me that I still have in my house. It just sums up the class of the man. He was a giant and he’ll be missed.
Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton