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When Dean Smith stood up for Bear Bryant

Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford visited The N&O recently and spoke warmly of Dean Smith, the former UNC basketball coach. But Deford, in town to promote his new book, "Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter," described an incident in which Smith would not be interviewed by Deford -- even though they'd had a good relationship for many years. 

Deford had just completed an article on Bear Bryant, the larger-than-life (in Alabama, anyway) Crimson Tide football coach who wore the houndstooth-check hat.  Bryant was at the end of his career (and life, it turned out). Deford mentioned in his article that the elderly Bryant frequently had to urinate.

'Bama Nation was infuriated that Deford wrote about The Great Man's bodily functions. So was Dean Smith, as Deford discovered a few months later when he ventured to Chapel Hill to write about Smith.

Smith flabbergasted Deford by telling him he would not talk for the article. But Smith didn't block others from talking with Deford. "Indeed, every day I was at Chapel Hill, I was graciously welcomed into his office, where we would exchange pleasantries, and then I would proceed to interview his assistants, his players, even his good friend the university chancellor," Deford wrote in his book.

Deford saw Smith over the years after his article came out. "...Our personal relationship remained exactly as it was before he thought I'd slighted Bear Bryant," Deford wrote. "It was as if that episode had never happened." --John Drescher








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