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Dean Smith collection debuts at Wilson Library

The family of legendary basketball coach Dean Smith donated 12,000 items to the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Dean Smith’s legendary coaching career that includes two national championships and 879 wins has been well documented.

A new addition to the University Libraries now paints a fuller portrait of the man off the court. Smith’s family recently donated to UNC-Chapel Hill 12,000 items from Smith’s early years and post-basketball life. They will be part of the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.

The collection contains school projects and newspaper clippings from Smith’s childhood in Emporia, Kansas, and personal letters and speeches from his retirement.

“It tells us about Dean Smith as a person,” University Archivist Nicholas Graham said about the collection, which is open to the public. “This kind of fills out the details in his biography and shows more about him as a person and his service after he finished coaching.”

The items are among the more than 5,000 collections of primary documents, such as diaries, correspondence, photographs, maps and oral histories documenting Southern history that are housed in the Southern Historical Collection.

Bryan Giemza, director of the Southern Historical Collection, said the addition of Smith’s papers showcases the coach’s impact on the University, college basketball and the South.

“Here is one of the most important public figures ever associated with the University and, of course, his roots are in Kansas, so it’s really interesting to see how a persona develops and the way that southerners embraced him as part of the bigger story of southern basketball,” he said. “It brings more texture to the portrait of the life of one of the most esteemed leaders that the state and University has known in recent years.”

A large portion of the Smith collection is comprised of newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, letters and other documents that Smith’s parents had saved through the years. These include Smith’s school report on Emporia from 1946, books about basketball, batches of news articles from throughout his coaching career and transcripts of speeches that Smith had sent home for his parents to read.

The collection also showcases how Smith kept up with the basketball world even after he retired through personal letters with fans, coaches and former players. And, the collection also includes memorabilia showcasing former Carolina player’s NBA careers, including the Michael Jordan Wheaties box.

“One of the things this shows is over his retirement was how much he kept up with people,” Graham said.

Although the collection doesn’t shed a new light on Smith’s career, the items, Graham said, further solidify the coach’s reputation of a modest man.

“It shows the respect he had from other coaches and the relationships he had with people,” he said. “He really did seem to be as humble and thoughtful as his reputation.”

To see more about the collection, visit the UNC Libraries’ For the Record blog.