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Dean Smith's memory fading, report says

Jul 8, 2010, 2:45 PM EDT

If there’s a depressing story for college hoops fans this week, it’s this report from the Fayetteville Observer: Dean Smith is suffering from memory loss.

The legendary North Carolina coach, 79, helped the school celebrate its 100th year of hoops earlier this year, but the celebration among the Carolina family was a bit muted because Smith wasn’t quite himself.

“That’s really the painful thing to absorb when you’re around him,” said Woody Durham, the radio voice of the Tar Heels since 1971. “Because his mind for so many years, not only in basketball but in remembering names and faces from everyday life, was like a steel trap. Now to see him losing that capability is truly sad.”

Those near the UNC program say Smith has good days and bad days. On the good days, he is his cheerful, unassuming self, friendly and engaging and surprising people with his memory of little details about their lives.

But on the bad days, they say, Smith has great difficulty even remembering people he has worked with and around for years.

Smith’s family is asking for privacy at this time. I’m sure more and more reports such as this will continue to trickle out. Smith’s been a part of far too many people’s lives for this not to have an impact.

“Unfortunately, we’re not young forever,” former player Eric Montross, who now works as a commentator on the Tar Heels’ radio broadcasts, told the paper. “We all have seen it on some level with our family members. It’s life and it’s getting older and it’s incredibly rough sometimes. And when you watch something like this happen, you feel firsthand how tough it really is.”

(H/T: Diamond Leung)

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  1. Gary - Jul 8, 2010 at 5:29 PM

    Here’s wishing the best for Coach Smith…thoughts and prayers are with him!!

  2. cincha - Jul 8, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    It is so sad to read this. Smith was a great coach.

  3. redbirdhawk - Jul 8, 2010 at 6:02 PM

    Truly sad.
    I’ve always admired Dean Smith, as did my father, a long time basketball coach himself.
    At least he’s not in pain.
    Best wishes to his family, who will bear the greatest burden from here on out.

  4. Ken - Jul 8, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Coach Smith is in my thoughts and prayers. My wife’s family is currently going through this with her father. It is definitley very sad to see and watch someone go through this when you have known someone for a very long time. May God be with Coach Smith and his family during these very trying times.

  5. spike0930 - Jul 8, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    I have always admired a true legend and gentleman in Coach Smith. I do not know if it is Alzheimer’s he is suffering from but I have lost two grand parents to this horrible illness. I wish him and his family all the best and I will keep him in my prayers.

  6. Anonymous - Jul 8, 2010 at 6:31 PM

    Lived in CH for years and was high school classmates with his daughter. That family is pure class. Even though I’m a Duke fan, I will always root for Coach Smith.

  7. AngelicaS - Jul 8, 2010 at 6:41 PM

    Dean Smith’s legacy is that of a supreme coach and leader, but more importantly, he record speaks to his unparralled humanitarianism— a groundbreaking anti-segregationist, against the death penality. He is a TRULY INCREDIBLE HUMAN BEING!

  8. Hal Pritzker - Jul 8, 2010 at 11:08 PM

    Isn’t it a travesty that a classy gentleman like Coach Dean Smith becomes a victim of a hideous illness…while human maelstrom like Michael Vick…JaMarcus Russell…Mike Tyson…and Terrell Owens remain—for the moment—largely untouched?
    But on the bright side, a draft-dodging, anti-American traitor like Cassius Clay has, at last, been rendered silent by Parkinson’s. Too bad it didn’t a long time ago. And Tiger Woods, besides being taken to the financial cleaners by his former wife, has had his public image forever exploded by reality. Maybe there is justice, afterall.
    But not when a gentleman like Mr. Smith is adversely affected. We can only hope it’s only temprary.

  9. rod - Jul 9, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Hal Pritzker it’s amazing how you induced your racist attitude in to this story. Why everyone you talking about is black, granted all but two have done something criminal. Sure Owens has a big mouth what has he done that was criminal, then you disrespect Ali by calling him his slave name. I can name 30 people {that look like you} so called heroes that committed treason against this country i bet would blow your mind that are getting high praise in this country. First George Bush grandfather( Prescott Bush) who helped Hitler rise to power. i can go on and on. Ali had it right when he opposed the war, why kill for a country that doesn’t give black people their rights here in America. Some Black soldiers were lynch while walking home in uniform as they got off a bus or train. Dean Smith stood up for Black players in Chapel Hill when places would allow them to eat in their restaurants. Also was a great activist for civil rights. So you are disgracing a great humanitarian with your racist induced rants. Your first line to illness was perfect until you start naming your distaste for certain black athletes. History kills stupid comments like yours. Davie Crockett and Daniel Boone king of the wild frontier were glorified by America and they were known racist and they try to help keep Texas a slave state. This stuff is well documented and your talking about some useless athletes except Ali. Research why these guys names are on federal buildings or schools— Woodrow Wilson,J. Edgar Hoover(which is a black man and hated black people)why not call them out. This nations problem are cause by people that look like you and you will not say anything about them but pick on insignificant black athlete’s.

  10. rod - Jul 9, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    Right after his retirement i had the feeling that Alzheimer’s was one of the reasons he retired. When you been around people in your life with Alzheimer’s you can pick it up in other people quicker than the average person. Wish you well!!…………..Hal you’re truly a clown. Watch how many people will attack me and not analyzes his statement, it’s has know point in the conversation but one to vent his racist distaste for certain black athlete’s.

  11. Hal Pritzker - Jul 9, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    I stick by everything I wrote. Clay was a traitor to this country, and a perverted role model to our youth, adding fuel to their anti-war garbage. Would Clay fight for America if we were attacked? If not, then he really was a traitor; if yes, then he was a hypocrite. Either, he’s the last person who should be made a hero. By the way, Clay’s parents gave him that name. And all those people I mentioned just happened to be your black brothers; they very easily could have been white. But weren’t.

  12. Michael Leake - Jul 9, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    Interesting that you only named African American athletes. There are young men and women all over our nation squandering their gifts and their colors are irrelevant.
    The travesty is that we all get old, and we all do so in different ways. Let’s hope that WE can age as gracefully and live lives that provide half as much class, joy and happiness as Coach Smith has given to our nation, college basketball and especially Tar Heel fans, regardless of color.

  13. rod - Jul 9, 2010 at 3:59 PM

    War was not the answer. The message he and MLK expressed in his letter”Why I opposed the Vietnam War”. Do you really understand why we really went to war in Vietnam? Do you know why we went to war in Iraq? when we should have went to Afghanistan were Bin Laden had been spotted. By the way all black American last names are from their slave ancestor’s master. Know history before you make a fool out of yourself. Barack Obama and some others have no hand-down slave name. It’s an insult to call black people African American when Africa is a continent and not a country. Ali read history and understood what this country did in the name of Jesus and was one of the reason he converted to Islam. America and France is the reason that Haiti hasn’t progressed since they whipped Napoleon. Toussaint L’Ouverture led a rebellion over french led by Napoleon which freed the slave and gain their independence in 1804. America didn’t want that to spread here. Every since America hasbeen hard on Haiti instead of helping them like they do in Iraq. 12 states were purchased from his results.

  14. rod - Jul 9, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    “I stick by everything I wrote. Clay was a traitor to this country, and a perverted role model to our youth, adding fuel to their anti-war garbage”. your word speaks loud why this country is going to hell. War is a form of Global White Supremacy. In this world we are conditioned to believe the white is superior and black is inferior. Through that manifestation people of color are undervalued, under-estimated, and marginalized. Black are conditioned to think that they are inferior and whites are conditioned to believe that also. Why is a problem when black ,brown ,yellow get nuclear weapon and it’s okay that the white nation are okay to have them. Don’t let me get started on Israel”…..
    Last legal lynching recorded 1971 in Salisbury Nc and you want me to goto overseas to kill for this country and they can’t protect me here in America. Or white cops murdering a kid on camera in California and he may get away with it. Reagan tried to take away your guns after he got shot and Barack becomes president gun sales go up because white people scared blacks are going to do what ever they want because he’s president. PLEASE I’ll never fight for this country in another land but if someone come here of coarse but i may have to watch out for 2 enemies…….

  15. Kathy Call - Jul 9, 2010 at 8:32 PM

    This news just breaks my heart !! I’ve been a fan of his since 1969 and I love my TARHEELS! He is a wonderful man and I wish him the best. God Bless Coach Smith and his family.

  16. Jeff and Pam - Jul 11, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    Our best wishes and thoughts go out to Dean Smith and his family. We moved to Durham in 1978 when Jeff started at Duke Law School. Even though we have been Dukies ever since, we always had great respect for Dean Smith and his approach to coaching and life.

  17. Jordan Fijalkowski - Jul 26, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    Just in case you didn’t know… your blog looks extremely strange in Firefox on a mac

  18. James Shannon - Aug 7, 2010 at 6:51 PM

    always a pritz in the group

  19. Lucinda - Aug 24, 2010 at 8:00 AM

    If I might say it here, much of the discussion concerning Tiger Woods will be put to bed now that his divorce, which we weren’t told about, is over and done with and he can get on with what he does best – playing golf. Go Tiger!

  20. cheap nhl jerseys - Oct 21, 2010 at 2:13 PM

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