Dean Smith - The Coach You Want To Play For

By: Robin Shelton, PGA, CCM | SCPGA President

ESPN has recently produced and is showing a ten-part documentary, “The Last Dance,” about Michael Jordan and his career with the Chicago Bulls. The docuseries focuses on the career of Michael Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls – the 1997-1998 season.

The first episode of “The Last Dance” is centered around his college career and early years with the Chicago Bulls. There are many highlights and educational moments from the first episode – picked third in the NBA draft, hitting the winning shot to win the NCAA Championship as a Freshman, and Phil Jackson’s start as an Assistant Coach.

The episode is filled with Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls highlights, but I found a powerful leadership lesson and example outside of the main storyline.

Dean Smith is the Coach of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels and is Michael Jordan’s College Coach.

Dean Smith is a College Coaching Legend, one of the most decorated and successful Coaches – he won two NCAA Championships, made eleven Final Four appearances, won a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics as a Coach, and had a 96% graduation rate among his players at UNC.

As the Coach of the team, Smith is responsible for ensuring the team wins. The more wins, the more success, adding prestige for the University, and ultimately more reward and gain for Smith.

As any Coach, Coach Smith is hired and rewarded for wins.

Michael Jordan would ultimately leave UNC after his third year – and the reason was because of Coach Dean Smith. Coach Smith encouraged him to leave UNC and turn pro, and he saw an incredible opportunity for Jordan to be an early pick in the first round.

Imagine what would have happened if Jordan would have played his senior year at UNC. Imagine how much better the team would have been. Imagine how close the team could get to winning the National Championship.

Coach Smith told Jordan to do what was best for him. Coach Smith wanted what was best for Michael. He put his own interests behind that of his player. He genuinely wanted what was best for Michael.

Dean Smith is the type of coach we all would want to play for.

As leaders, we should follow the example of Dean Smith. We should put the best interests of our co-workers as our priority. We should be a leader that our teammates, co-workers, and followers all want to work for.

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