There are times when you wonder if the hubbub about the Carolina Family is a little overblown. People roll their eyes when they hear of how tight-knit the players in the program are, and it’s something that fans of the program are quick to tout. It’s especially something they will scream about when a certain school down the road had co-opted the family idea with a neat marketing hashtag.
But there are anecdotes that back up just what being in the Carolina Family meant and why players were loyal to the coaches and vice versa. We know of Dean Smith bequeathing a check to all of his former players in order to have a meal on him, how he'd quickly stand up in the media any time he felt his players were being disrespected, and Roy taking the time to go to see his former players play in the NBA when the schedule allowed him. We also know of the summer pick up games where generations of players pass their knowledge down.
This weekend, Kenny Smith told a story that emphasized just what the players meant to Coach Smith and the spirit he wanted to created by being in his program.
On a web program, All The Smoke, The Jet sat down and traded stories about his career. When he was asked what made the Carolina Family special, he shared this never-before heard story
Makhtar N’Diaye is a player who keeps popping up, and his exploits in college had him as someone fans were split about while as a player, but he’s shown himself to be a loyal alumnus, one who instantly jumped into everyone’s hearts with this:
i mean, you have to admit...this is an objectively great photograph. pic.twitter.com/JPM0aCX8Qo— bomani (@bomani_jones) April 5, 2022
Now we all know why he’s so loyal. There aren’t many coaches that would take what a player said, take it to heart they got something so wrong, and work that hard to rectify the mistake. That’s what they mean when they talk about the Carolina Family. The fact that the story hadn’t gotten out until now also speaks to how little recognition Smith actually wanted for it.
In case people were wondering if the story was made up — and keep in mind Kenny did get the assistants wrong in his retelling, as Roy Williams as already at Kansas by this point — the point guard for when this happened, Jeff McInnis brought the receipts.
In case you needed anymore proof about what the players meant to him, well, now you have it.