Local News

From the Beginning, Smith Made an Impression

Posted October 9, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

Dr. Danny Lotz, a former Tar Heel, remembers Smith as a man who knew basketball.

— It was 1961 when Smith became UNC's head coach. John Kennedy was in the White House. Elvis was on top of the charts, and Michael Jordan, who played for Smith at Carolina, wasn't even born yet. The list of people who can't believe the Dean Smith era is over stretches from 1958 to now.

Many people have very vivid memories of Jordan, Stackhouse, and Worthy. But, how about names like Rusty Clark and Danny Lotz. Some of the highest praise for Dean Smith comes from nearly 40 years ago.

A relatively unknown assistant coach from the Airforce Academy arrived at UNC in 1958. Right away Dean Smith made an impression. Dr. Danny Lotz, who is now a Raleigh dentist, was on that 1958 team.

"Dean Smith came in, and all of a sudden he says now we can set up some plays," Lotz recalls. "You do this. You do that. Everybody on the team knew that Dean Smith knew basketball."

Most of Dean Smith's players, even those who go back 36 years say they can't believe it's over.

"For that to end, it's a shock. It really is," Lotz admits. "Life goes on. There's always someone else, but you just don't replace a guy like that."

Many say the best measure of a man comes from his peers. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has faced off against Dean Smith for many years. Coach "K" says Smith has benefitted UNC, the ACC, and college basketball.

Despite all the tough games, Krzyzewski says it won't be the same without the Dean.

"I'm gonna miss him because I think he brought out the best in me and he brought out the best in our whole conference," says Krzyzewski. "So if this is what he's going to do, the best of luck to him."

Dr. Danny Lotz has a brother John who coached with Dean Smith. The conversation they had when they heard the news was probably mirrored many times over.

They told each other they couldn't believe the Dean was leaving, and they both swapped old Dean Smith stories.