Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Remembering Burgess

Posted January 17, 2006

The 20 year anniversary of the Dean E. Smith Center this week sparks a lot of great memories: the jerseys in the rafters, the 1993 and 2005 championship teams, Dean Smith working his sideline magic. But more than anything else I think of Burgess McSwain. Burgess was the chief academic counselor for the UNC basketball program for more than 20 years. I first knew Burgess as a child growing up in Morganton. She was several years older and earned my respect in her backyard one day during a game of cowboys and Indians. She had a way of getting her point across. She also had a way of winning but always with integrity. Burgess befriended me after she saw me on the air at WRAL TV. She would call me with tickets to many of the great games. She gave my family several tours of the Smith Center. We were there when Marvin Williams stopped by for his recruiting trip with Roy Williams. Burgess showed us the locker room and weight room and a basketball office refrigerator plastered with family photos of all the great players and staff members. Burgess’ home in Chapel Hill was a magnet for players. They would stop by to study and get a dose of worldly wisdom from Burgess and her father Dan Murphy. The players absolutely adored Burgess even though she could be very demanding. She once yanked Michael Jordan off the golf course and ordered him to study for an exam. Melvin Scott who played on the 2005 national championship team was quoted as saying: “Burgess McSwain loves us more than basketball. Her heart is so pure. When someone's heart is pure with love, it's easy to relate to them, no matter what the age difference." Burgess died of cancer in the summer of 2004. Her church was filled with basketball greats for the funeral. I still miss her and think of her every time I go to Chapel Hill.

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