Dean Smith and Carolina basketball

My mother, Marii Hasegawa, loved Atlantic Coast Basketball, but she really loved the Tar Heels the best.  Even after my sister got her Masters degree from Duke, my mother refused to root for them when they played North Carolina.  I have only been to one Final Four, but it was in 1982 and I got to see North Carolina win it all.

Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown for the N.C.A.A. championship in 1982

Dean Smith, the North Carolina basketball coach, after the Tar Heels defeated Georgetown for the N.C.A.A. championship in 1982

My mother was happy; my aunt who favored Georgetown, was not.

Richard Goldstein writing the obituary in the New York Times points out that while Dean Smith was a legendary basketball coach he should be remembered for a great deal more.

Smith’s 879 victories rank him No. 4 among major college men’s basketball coaches, and his teams won two national championships. He turned out a host of all-Americans, most notably Michael Jordan, perhaps basketball’s greatest player, but he emphasized unselfish team play. He was a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a four-time national coach of the year.

Like most successful coaches, Smith was adept at diagraming plays on a blackboard. But unlike many, he ran a program that was never accused of N.C.A.A. violations, and some 97 percent of his players graduated.

President Obama awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in November 2013, presenting it to his wife, Linnea, who represented him at a White House ceremony.

In addition to citing Smith’s achievements on the court, Mr. Obama praised his “courage in helping to change our country” through his progressive views on race relations.

He drew on a moral code implanted by his parents in Depression-era Kansas to break racial barriers in a changing South. He challenged segregation and recruited Charlie Scott, who became the first starring black basketball player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“My father said, ‘Value each human being,’ ” Smith recalled in “A Coach’s Life” (1999), written with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins. “Racial justice wasn’t preached around the house, but there was a fundamental understanding that you treated each person with dignity.”

Smith’s parents instilled a sense of racial tolerance in him, in a highly segregated state, long before the modern civil rights movement. His father [a high school basketball coach] put a black player named Paul Terry on his 1933-34 team, which won the state championship, though Terry was barred from playing in the state tournament by Kansas sports officials.

I remember hearing a lot of players say they made decisions well into adulthood only after consulting with Coach Smith.  I remember when Michael Jordan wanted to leave UNC early some of the announcers saying that Jordan was leaving only after promising his mother and Coach Smith he would get his degree.  He did.

The Charlotte Observer has this anecdote.

Smith the innovator also was Smith the motivator. But he didn’t give rah-rah pep talks. He typically explained what they needed to do to win and the significance of the moment.

Once at Maryland, however, he did promise to sing “Amen” – the Terps’ late-game theme song – if the Tar Heels beat Lefty Driesell’s club. Carolina won and Smith fulfilled his vocal promise, but according to reports, he would not have won the “American Idol” title.

“He was not much as a singer,’’ recalled guard Ged Doughton.

Many will write about Dean Smith’s contributions to the game of basketball.  For example, his “Four Corners” offense made the shot clock necessary.  But I want to remember him for his views off the court also.  In an article from 2013, Barry Jacobs wrote

Smith was periodically approached about running for the U.S. Senate from North Carolina as a Democrat. But the publicity-shy coach disdained the glad-handing involved in soliciting votes and raising money. Besides, he said, “I’d never get elected if people in North Carolina realized how liberal I am.”

He was probably right. Over the years Smith spoke in favor of a nuclear freeze and for gay rights. He opposed capital punishment. He joined a Chapel Hill street protest against the war in Vietnam. When President George H.W. Bush sent American troops into Iraq in 1991, Smith asked: “Why can’t the United States band together for some other good thing like (fighting) poverty? If you want to kill somebody, then everybody’s for it.”

 My mother loved Carolina basketball and she admired Dean Smith.  If they had ever met I think they would have had a lot to say to each other.

Photograph:  Pete Leabo/Associated Press

 

Bracket busted

My picks for the final four this year:  Duke, Michigan State, Florida State, and North Carolina.  Duke went out early and Florida State didn’t make the Sweet Sixteen.  What I get for ACC loyalty.  Actually, Duke was a decent pick, but FSU was only because they were on a streak and which I thought could be sustained a few more games.  Oh, well.

With injuries to UNC, I have a feeling my ultimate winner – and President Obama’s – may not make it, but we shall see!  I have Michigan State and UNC in the finals, by the way, and they are both still alive for the moment.

 Kendall Marshall off-balance. He landed breaking his non-dominant wrist.

I know that everyone is saying that Kentucky is a lock now, that it is Kentucky against the field, but I am still betting against them.

One day before the House votes on health care

It is Saturday afternoon.  The Tar Heels won their NIT game, my NCAA bracket is doing so-so. and the Sox won.  There is a lot going on including the all important countdown to 216 votes in the House.

A couple of things have happened.  President Obama has made his “remember why you are a Democrat” speech (or maybe it is live up to Abe Lincoln) before the House Democratic Caucus.  There are sufficient votes in the Senate for the bill as it will be amended by the House and it looks like Nancy Pelosi will get to 216 sometime before tomorrow’s votes if she is not already there.  The picture and the quotes that follow are from the New York Times Prescriptions blog.

President Barack Obama met with House Democrats on Capitol Hill to discuss health insurance reform legislation, Saturday, March 20, 2010 in Washington

“You have a chance to make good on the promises you made,” Mr. Obama said. “This is one of those moments. This is one of those times where you can honestly say to yourself: ‘Doggone it, this is exactly why I came here. This is why I got into politics. This is why I got into public service. This is why I made these sacrifices.’ ”

“Every single one of you have made that promise not just to your constituents but to yourself,” he added. “This is the time to make good on this promise.”

He had opened his speech by quoting Lincoln

“I am not bound to win but I am bound to be true,” he said.

I have to believe that once the bill is passed and signed and benefits begin to kick in there will be support for the bill.  I really liked the President’s characterization of the the Republican’s trying to get Democrats to vote no.

“I notice that there has been a lot of friendly advice offered all across town,” he said. “Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove — they are all warning you of the horrendous impact if you support this legislation.”

He continued, “Now, it could be that they are suddenly having a change of heart, and they are deeply concerned about their democratic friends. They are giving you the best possible advice in order to ensure that Nancy Pelosi remains speaker and Harry Reid remains leader and all of you keep your seats — that’s a possibility.”

Mr. Obama chuckled at himself, and lawmakers in the audience laughed.

“But it may also be possible that they realize that after health reform passes and I sign that legislation into law, it’s going to be a little harder to mischaracterize what this legislation has been all about,” he said.

So with all this, what is going on the Representative Stephen Lynch?  Lynch represents the part of Boston not represented by my Rep, Mike Capuano, who is voting “yes”.  Lynch has announced that he is voting “no” because the bill does not do enough to control the cost of insurance.  There is a lot of pressure on him by the local unions, include SEIU of which I am a member.  According to the Boston Globe

More than 20 Massachusetts labor leaders made a last-ditch appeal to US Representative Stephen F. Lynch late yesterday, urging him to “do the right thing’’ and vote for a national health care overhaul.

In a letter delivered to Lynch’s South Boston office, the group suggested a vote against the bill would damage his standing with their membership.

Lynch, a former president of Ironworkers Local 7, declared Thursday that he will vote against the health care bill. He said the current bill does not do enough to force insurance companies to reduce costs.

“Congressman, we will not be able to explain to the working women and men of our union why you voted against their interests,’’ the letter states. “We have stood together time and time again and you have made an enormous difference.’’

“It takes courage to make history,’’ they wrote. “We know that you have always had the courage to do the right thing — national health reform is the right thing for Massachusetts families. Please stand with us once again and do the right thing.’’

It looks like he will join Senator Scott Brown in being the two “no” votes from Massachusetts.

Another Republican objection disappeared this afternoon when the House Rules committee decided against “deeming” and will now hold two votes.  As explained in the Washington Post

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the House will take three votes on Sunday: first, on a resolution that will set the terms of debate; second, on a package of amendments to the Senate bill that have been demanded by House members; and third, on the Senate bill itself.

Van Hollen, who has been working on the issue with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said House leaders concluded that that order — approving the amendments before approving the Senate bill — makes clear that the House intends to modify the Senate bill and not approve the Senate bill itself.

“We believe this is a better process,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said of the vote strategy. “We determined we could do this. . . . We believe we have the votes.”

This is all possible because Senator Reid has done his head count and has the votes to pass the reconciled bill.

I think we will know who the 216 votes will be by tomorrow morning.

And before I retire to watch basketball (do you believe that St. Mary’s beat Villanova?! ) here is a link to the amendments the House will be making to the Senate bill.

Tar Heels Visit the White House

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity has probably figured out I would write about the North Carolina Tar Heels visiting the White House yesterday.

President Obama welcomed Coach Roy Williams and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels to the White House.

Everyone who follows March Madnes(and many that don’t) knows that the President picked UNC to win it all.  Jeff Zelney writes  in the  New York Times

“Congratulations on bringing Carolina its fifth national championship,” Mr. Obama said. “And, more importantly, thanks for salvaging my bracket and vindicating me before the entire nation. That first round was rough on me.”

As he stood on the South Portico of the White House, Mr. Obama played host to yet another group of collegiate champions. But this meeting was far more personal than previous teams that have visited the White House this year, largely because of Mr. Obama’s affinity to the Tar Heels and the amount of time he invested in North Carolina, where he won the statewide primary and general elections.

“Now, I did have a chance to play ball with this crew just over a year ago when I visited Chapel Hill. And I’m not sure whose luck rubbed off on who,” Mr. Obama said. “I think there was just a good vibe going on there, because they’re now national champions and I’m now president.”

A year ago, as his presidential campaign was beset with controversy over the incendiary comments of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Mr. Obama arrived on the Chapel Hill campus for an early-morning game of hoops and a tour of the Tar Heels’ locker room. (Mr. Obama followed tradition and stepped around the school logo in the center of the floor, a zone of respect where footsteps are not allowed.)

“When we played, everybody went out of their way to pass me the ball, set screens for me, let me take a shot,” the president said, recalling that 7 a.m. pickup game on April 29, 2008. “Tyler chose not to block my shot – of course, I was so intimidated by him being near me that I missed it.”

According to Politico , where you can also see video,

Obama — wearing a shade close to Tarheel blue — recounted a story about playing hoops with the team a year ago when he was a presidential candidate.

“There was a good vibe going on there because they’re now national champions and I’m president,” he said, teasing one player Jack Wooten for blocking his shot and fouling him during the game.

Obama joked that everyone at the White House was excited about the team’s visit “except my assistant Reggie Love,” who played basketball for Duke. The president congratulated the team and coach Roy Williams for “great character.”

Congratulations, Tar Heels.

Final Four and Opening Day

Last week Amalie Benjamin wrote in the Boston Globe

FORT MYERS, Fla. — It’s almost six weeks into spring training, and already one member of the Red Sox has had surgery, pitchers are headed toward five innings at a clip, and my bracket is shredded beyond recognition. (No, I’m not bitter at all.)

That’s where I am this morning.  My bracket is shredded but for North Carolina (Go Heels!) and it’s gonna rain on opening day at Fenway.  So let’s look at this picture of the grounds crew on a perfect April Saturday two days before opening day.

The season opener at Fenway Park might be a washout on Monday, but groundscrew members John Driscoll pounds down the dirt around homeplate while Jeremy Fuller smooths the gravel in the the area on Saturday morning.

This is also from the Globe.

And about the men’s championship game no matter what happens kids can admire Tyler Hansboough.  He’s called the “player you love to hate” because of his agressive play but he stayed in school for four years and whether you are a North Carolina fan or a Michigan State fan you have to love that. 

There will be two Hall of Famers watching tonights finals (no rainouts in basketball).  This from the New York Times

Magic Johnson will be in attendance at Ford Field on Monday, pulling for Michigan State, which he led to a national title in 1979. Michael Jordan, he hit the game winning shot in North Carolina’s 1982 title-game victory, is expected to be in the crowd, too.

And in my one minute of fame, I was there in New Orleans when Carolina beat Georgetown on the last second errant pass by Brown and the shot by Jordan.  It was a blur, but I believe that James Worthy was in there somehow. Great game and great result.

My Final Four – 50% Result

I picked the number one seeds:  Louisville, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, North Carolina.  And we got:  Michigan State, Connecticut, Villanova and North Carolina. 

I keep telling myself that a great batter like Ted Williams only gets to .400. not .5oo while the average hitter is doing well to hit .280.  And don’t ask me about the earlier rounds, please.  I think I am at about 50%  or a bit over for most of the rounds.  Just a 50% tournament for me.

Part of my problem is I don’t know when to pick on sentiment and when not to do so.  Like I picked VCU bacause I taught and worked there once.  Bad move.  I also didn’t pick Kansas over Boston College because BC is a local Boston school.  But I thought very hard about not picking Louisville because I dislike Rick Pitino and I should have gone with instinct there. 

Oh well, the Final Four should be exciting anyway.  Go Tar Heels!