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Feinstein on Dean Smith

This was linked on one of the other posts yesterday. Washington Post sports writer John Feinstein revealed on his blog what has known about Dean Smith's health since last year having seen it first hand while attempting to put together a biography of the long time UNC coach:

I knew the day would come when I would have to write about Dean Smith’s health. I made the decision last fall that I would not be the first one to write about it or talk about it because I felt my understanding of the situation had come about because of Dean’s willingness to cooperate with me on a biography. We had started working on the book last August.

I had known before then that Dean wasn’t Dean anymore. By that, I mean he no longer had the most remarkable memory of anyone I had ever met. As far back as 2005 he had commented to me when I was researching ‘Last Dance,’ that he knew his memory wasn’t what it had been. Back then though it was still better than most.

There were plenty of stories that he was struggling after he had knee surgery three years ago, that the surgery had not gone that well and there had been neurological issues. A number of people I knew at North Carolina had said to me at times, ‘it’s not good.’ It really hit me that he must not be well when he didn’t come to The Final Four in Detroit to watch the Tar Heels win the national title in 2009.

While UNC fans give Feinstein a hard time for being a Duke guy, his respect for Dean Smith is above board. Feinstein had know since last August that Dean's condition had reached a tipping point. To his credit, Feinstein chose not to break the story knowing it would eventually come out at a time of UNC and the family's choosing.

When Dean Smith did not attend the 2009 Final Four, like Feinstein, I was also concerned for his health and assumed he simply had become to frail to travel. Feinstein had wanted to do a biography about Dean Smith and realized it was "now or never." After some interviews with Dean and discussing it with his family it became obvious that the coaches' once infallible memory was faltering in tragic ways. By the time August, 2009 rolled around Feinstein found it was nearly impossible to move forward with the book since there were concerns that Dean would no longer be able to sit for long interview sessions. Feinstein considered doing the book without Dean's input relying on the people around him to fill in the blanks. However he felt honor bound since the arrangement was for it to be a collaboration between author and subject.

While there is not much in the way of new information about Dean Smith in Feinstein's post, it does shed more light on the incredible sadness of watching a man who remembered the slightest details about random people who passed through his life lose that part of himself. Without a doubt it is probably the worst way for someone to spend their remaining days on this earth.

Continued thoughts and prayers for the Smith and UNC basketball family.