When faced with an ethical dilemma, a common school of thought is to think of a person of strong character that you know or know of, and ask yourself what that person would do in your situation.
One person you might want to think of in such a situation is the late Dean Smith.
Everyone knows Dean Smith was one of the best coaches ever. What you may not know was that he was also a man of great character and integrity whose actions provide a lesson for anyone seeking to become a better, more ethically focused person.
We’ll touch on some on-court accomplishments and lessons in a minute, but off the court, Smith helped promote desegregation by recruiting UNC’s first African-American scholarship basketball player and pushing for equal treatment of African-Americans by local businesses in the segregated South of the late 1950s. But Smith didn’t want to be remembered for that because he didn’t want to receive any recognition for what he perceived as simply doing the right thing.
The day after Smith’s death, John Feinstein, an author and columnist for The Washington Post who had covered Smith for years, spoke to National Public Radio and shared a notable story.
“To me, his legacy is summed up in something that happened that I was involved in peripherally, years and years ago when I first learned about his involvement in desegregating the restaurants in Chapel Hill. And I asked him about it ’cause it was his minister who told me the story. And he said, ‘I wish Reverend Seymour hadn’t told you that.’ And I said, ‘Dean, why? Why would you want that? You should be proud of being involved in something like that.’ And he looked at me, and he said, ‘John, you should never be proud of doing the right thing. You should just do the right thing.’ And that’s who Dean Smith was. He never wanted to take bows.”