I was watching part of the Duke-Air Force game tonight and near the end of halftime they showed Dean Smith sitting with John Wooden watching the game. Of course since Duke was playing, Dick Vitale was on hand and he went over and looked as though he was about to sit in Dean's lap.
Dean was on hand in Kansas City as one of the four living inagural inductees into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. John Wooden, Bill Russell, and Oscar Roberton were also inducted. After seeing Dean during the Duke game I remembered it has been 10 years since his last season at UNC. It was March 1997 when Dean broke Aldoph Rupp's record for all time winningest coach in NCAA history when the Heels knocked off Colorado in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Winston-Salem. UNC won twice more to reach the Final Four but ran into a team of destiny in Arizona and exited stage right. A few months later so did Dean who turned the team over to longtime assistant Bill Guthridge as compelling act of loyalty, even if it did result in serious trouble a few years later.
So I am little shocked that it was 10 years ago this season that Dean Smith was in the midst of his final year as head coach of North Carolina. That season was one of more interesting ones with UNC struggling early on and even beginning the ACC season 0-3 after a 12 point loss in Charlottesville. In late January UNC went to Duke and lost 80-73 to drop to 3-5 in the ACC. It would be the last time UNC would lose until that Final Four exit. So in many ways it may have been one of Dean's more masterful coaching performances bringing a young team together and having that extended run all the way to the Final Four. In fact that may be one of my favorite non title winning UNC teams.
It just does not seem like it has been 10 years.