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List of head coaches on Dean Smith’s coaching tree is an impressive one

Dean Smith

AP Photo


Sunday morning the University of North Carolina announced that legendary head coach Dean Smith passed away Saturday night at the age of 83. During his time as a head coach Smith won 879 games, two national titles, an Olympic gold medal (1976), 13 ACC titles, 17 ACC regular season titles and helped shepherd many players not only into professional basketball but also in other arenas in life.

And to limit discussions about Smith’s impact to basketball would be unfair to him, as he also fought hard for social justice. Charles Scott, who told Smith during his recruitment that he preferred to be called “Charles” as opposed to the commonly used “Charlie,” became the ACC’s first African-American scholarship athlete in the mid-1960’s. Smith also participated in sit-ins, and protests over other issues such as the Vietnam War and the use of the death penalty.

To play for a person of Smith’s influence certainly benefitted his players, who went on to enjoy success not only in basketball but in other avenues of life as well. Below are those who went on to become head coaches in basketball, with many others moving on into assistant coaching and administrative roles. And this doesn’t include those, such as Gregg Popovich, who have been impacted by those who played for Smith.

While it likely wasn’t a goal of his, Dean Smith ended up planting one of the greatest coaching trees in all of sports.
MORE: Reactions to Dean Smith’s passing | Dean Smith’s ten greatest players at UNC

Active head coaches who played/worked for Dean Smith

  • Larry Brown (SMU): Brown’s amassed an impressive list of achievements at both the collegiate and professional levels, winning a national title at Kansas in 1988 and an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Currently the head coach at SMU, Brown won 1,327 games as a pro head coach (NBA and ABA) and has won more than 71 percent of his games as a college head coach. Brown played at UNC from 1960-63.
  • Roy Williams (North Carolina): The UNC alumnus returned home to Chapel Hill in 2003 after taking over for Brown at Kansas in 1988 and returning that program to national prominence. Like his mentor, Williams has two national titles to his credit, and he’s won just over 79 percent of his games as a college head coach. Williams has won two ACC titles and six ACC regular season titles at North Carolina, and like Brown, he’s a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
  • Scott Cherry (High Point): Cherry was a senior captain on Smith’s second national title team (1993), and as an assistant he was a member of Jim Larrañaga’s staff on the George Mason team that reached the Final Four in 2006. Cherry took over as head coach at High Point in 2009, winning the Big South North Division title in 2013 and 2014 and the overall conference regular-season title in 2014.
  • Butch Estes (Barry University): Estes made the move to Barry from Palm Beach State College in 2013, and he’s won nearly 500 games during a head coaching career that has spanned just over three decades. Estes played freshman basketball at North Carolina, and he served as a student manager under Smith.
  • Jeff Lebo (East Carolina): Lebo, who played for Smith from 1985-89, has been a Division I head coach at four different schools (Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga, Auburn and ECU) and has a career record of 294-230. Lebo led his last team at Tennessee Tech (2001-02) to the quarterfinals of the Postseason NIT.
  • King Rice (Monmouth): Rice recently moved into the head coaching ranks, taking over at Monmouth in 2011. Rice, who played for Smith from 1987-91, served as an assistant at Oregon, Illinois State, Providence and Vanderbilt from 1992-2011. Among his assistants is another former Tar Heel in Brian Reese, who was a teammate of Rice’s at UNC and ultimately won a national title in 1993.
  • Tony Shaver (William & Mary): Shaver walked onto the North Carolina basketball team in 1972 and was a member of the program for four seasons, with players such as Walter Davis, Phil Ford and Mitch Kupchak among his teammates. In 2003, Shaver made the move from Hampden-Sydney to William & Mary, and he’s led the Tribe to three CAA tournament title game appearances.

Former head coaches who played for Smith at North Carolina

  • Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Matt Doherty (Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida Atlantic, SMU)
  • Eddie Fogler (Wichita State, Vanderbilt, South Carolina)
  • George Karl (Montana Golden Nuggets (CAB), Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, Albany Patroons (CBA; twice), Real Madrid (twice), Seattle Supersonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets)
  • John Kuester (Detroit Pistons)
  • Doug Moe (San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Buzz Peterson (Appalachian State (twice), Tulsa, Tennessee, Coastal Carolina, UNCW)

Executives/Administrators who played for Smith at North Carolina

  • Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany
  • Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan
  • Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak
  • Former Pacers/Knicks executive Donnie Walsh