I remember the day like it was yesterday. Rumor was spreading like wildfire across the campus. Everywhere people were in total shock. A state of disbelief, grasping for reassurance that the rumors weren’t accurate.
(Remember, this was in the infancy of the Internet in 1997. There was no Drudge Report to break the news with a big flashing siren and red letters).
"Have you heard?"
"It can’t be true."
"What do we do from here?"
Luckily for me and a few friends, we had a source on the inside at the local newspaper. So we frantically called him, and he confirmed our worst fears. He was heading down to the press conference as he spoke to us.
Dean Smith was retiring.
It was a crushing blow. The entire town was somber. Many students raced down to the building named in his honor to try and watch. Others trudged like zombies around campus unable to imagine Carolina basketball without Coach Smith.
I still have a copy of The Daily Tar Heel and The Chapel Hill News from the following day. The newsprint may be yellowing with age, but the memories of that day are just as fresh with me now as they were then. It’s quite remarkable what sticks with you later in life. But that was just one of those things.
(Now back to your regularly scheduled policy discussions).