Recently I was asking for people’s favorite books by or about coaches. Someone mentioned Dean Smith’s A Coach’s Life (written with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins) which I had read over a decade ago and remembered loving.
So, I went back to it.
Dean Smith, the legendary North Carolina men’s basketball coach, needs little introduction even to a casual sports fan out there. He won two NCAA national championships at UNC, but more importantly he was an educator and honorable person. I am an alumnae of the school which helps to explain my affinity for him, but my respect is also stoked by the now familiar story of the times he referred to UNC as a “women’s soccer school.”
I pulled the book off the shelf and reread some of what I had underlined, highlighted and bookmarked with paper clips years ago. It proved to be wonderful way to spend several hours.
Smith delivers remarkable coaching insights throughout and he details for the reader how he built that culture and why.
These insights alone are worth the read.
A Coach’s Life is fantastic, but more importantly reading the book reminded me of what I have always loved about Coach Smith.
As great a coach as he was, he was an equally great man.
Smith, a bright thoughtful and well-read person never condescended to his audience.
Here’s a quote regarding his retirement, which displays humility, perspective and the respect he has for the reader’s intelligence:
“I tried to tell myself that I was a teacher as well as a coach of a Division I program. But the jobs differed in one important respect: A teacher didn’t have as many people watching the examination and grading his students in their living rooms…There was no better example of that than my announcement in 1997 that I was retiring. I was shocked to find that my press conference was carried live on ESPN. I couldn’t help mentioning that I felt our society’s values were mixed up. When a Nobel-Prize winning professor retired, there was a simple announcement in the newspaper. It was a Kierkegaardian “switching of the price tags.”
Glad I asked for recommendations on twitter.
Even though had I read Dean Smith’s A Coach’s Life before, it was well worth my time to revisit it.
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Have any other books I should read? List your recommendation(s) in the comments or send them to me at inf0 at thecoachingconversation d0t com