UNC library collection provides glimpse of Dean Smith's personal life

Posted November 30, 2017 6:50 p.m. EST

— Wilson Library on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus has opened up to the public its collection of personal papers from legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith.

The collection of 12,000 items include everything from notes, letters and photos to a piece of the net from the 1982 NCAA national championship game and even a report he wrote as a student in Kansas in the 1940s.

"Really, this is a collection of his personal papers, and shows a lot of those dimensions of his personal life," said Biff Hollingsworth, collecting and outreach archivist for the Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library.

Hollingsworth said the papers range from the professional, such as workshops he conducted for international basketball teams and his work mentoring coaches from other countries, to the personal, such as his interest in civil rights, abolishing the death penalty and other social justice issues, to the academic, such as his thoughts on freshman eligibility and the use of alcohol ads within college athletics.

"We were very excited to join with his family to crawl through the attic and basement and see what he had left. Some of it was a surprise to his own family, and that’s great," he said.

UNC Libraries officials first contacted Smith about preserving his papers in 1998.

"In his very Dean Smith humble way, he responded to our request saying, 'I’m willing to talk to you someday about personal papers, but I doubt that you would want mine,'" Hollingsworth said.

One of the more interesting aspects of the collection, he said, is the role faith played in Smith’s life and how it shaped his coaching philosophy.

"I think that’s an element that probably gets overlooked in the telling of Dean Smith’s story," he said.

Smith died in 2015, and library officials have spent the past two years archiving the collection.

"Personally, it was great for me because I’ve always been a fan," Hollingsworth said. "It was great to kind of live out this dream of being a part of the Dean Smith story and keeping it for future generations."

To schedule a time to see the Dean Smith Collection at Wilson Library, call 919-962-3765.