10 life lessons from legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith


dean smith

Ellen Ozier/Reuters

Coach Dean Smith mentored numerous successful players, including Michael Jordan.


Legendary University of North Carolina men's basketball coach Dean Smith knew how to win a ball game.

Smith, who died at age 83 at his home on Saturday, coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997. In those 36 seasons, he led the team to two National Championships, 13 ACC tournament titles, and 11 Final Four appearances.

He also led the United States basketball team to a gold medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and became the winningest coach in college basketball history two decades later in 1997.

Smith coached a generation of players who went on to have successful careers in the NBA, including perhaps the greatest player basketball has ever seen, Michael Jordan. He not only taught his players how to win a basketball game - he taught them how to win at life.


Remembered for his quiet humility, social activism, and impact on his players just as much as his impeccable coaching résumé, we can draw valuable life lessons from 10 of his best quotes, which come from his co-authored book, "The Carolina Way: Leadership Lessons from a Life in Coaching," interviews, and pre-practice team meetings.

1. Stay humble, stay hungry.

"A lion never roars after a kill."

2. What's done is done.

"What to do with a mistake - recognize it, admit it, learn from it, forget it."

3. Give credit where credit is due.

"I do believe in praising that which deserves to be praised."

4. You've got to care to lead.

"The most important thing in good leadership is truly caring. The best leaders in any profession care about the people they lead, and the people who are being led know when the caring is genuine and when it's faked or not there at all."


5. Act with honor and integrity.

"Good people are happy when something good happens to someone else."

6. At the end of the day, it's just a game.

"If you make every game a life and death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot."

7. Surround yourself with winners.

"I would never recruit a player who yells at his teammates, disrespected his high school coach, or scores 33 points a game and his team goes 10-10."

8. Value what's most important.

"As soon as you try to describe a close friendship, it loses something."

9. Lead by example.

"A leader's job is to develop committed followers. Bad leaders destroy their followers' sense of commitment."


10. Never underestimate teamwork.

"Play hard. Play smart. Play together."