Three legendary coaches honored

Updated: June 29, 2011, 10:35 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Only on Tobacco Road could this scene unfold: Dean Smith slowly walked onto the stage, his arm held by Roy Williams, and sat next to Mike Krzyzewski. A few seats down was the sister of the late women's coach Kay Yow.

Smith, Krzyzewski and Yow -- three Hall of Fame coaches who have combined for more than 2,500 victories at North Carolina, Duke and North Carolina State, respectively -- were honored Wednesday night on "Basketball Day" in North Carolina.

Each point of the state's Triangle was represented and celebrated during a ceremony presented by the state's sports hall of fame, with each receiving Naismith Good Sportsmanship Awards for their contributions to the game by the Naismith International Basketball Foundation.

"You can't bring those three entities together and not have it be an incredible night," Krzyzewski said.

Krzyzewski enters his 37th season as a head coach with 900 wins -- two shy of matching Bob Knight for the most by a Division I men's coach. Smith retired in 1997 as the record-holder with 879 wins. Yow, who died in 2009 after a two-decade fight with cancer, won 737 games during her career.

"If anybody asked me who made ACC basketball, without a doubt, it's Coach Smith," said College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, a longtime rival of Smith's and Krzyzewski's from his time at Georgia Tech.

Then, he quipped: "I'm very proud of what I accomplished, and when I see what (Krzyzewski has) accomplished, I feel like a cockroach."

The 80-year-old Smith, who rarely appears publicly, didn't speak to the crowd and appeared on the stage for only about 10 minutes. Williams escorted him out and brought him to a seat between Krzyzewski and Charles Scott -- the first black player in North Carolina history.

As the crowd gave Smith a standing ovation, he beamed a smile and playfully bowed toward the audience to show his appreciation.

"I feel inadequate up here," said Williams, who spoke in place of Smith. "How do you represent Coach Smith?"

Smith led North Carolina to national championships in 1982 and 1993, took the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours, won the ACC tournament 13 times and led the U.S. to the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

"Lou Gehrig might have been the luckiest person in the world," Scott said. "But we who played for Coach Smith ... we are the luckiest people in the world."

Krzyzewski, passed Smith, his longtime rival, on the wins list in December. In more than three decades at Duke, he has taken the Blue Devils to 11 Final Fours -- one shy of John Wooden's record -- and won four national championships in a span of 20 years.

"What an amazing thing for us to recognize three giants in the history of the sport of college basketball," said Duke assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski, who presented Krzyzewski. "I think it's so fitting that we are talking about (not only) how much they won, but more importantly the way in which they won. All three coaches, they won with class, they won with integrity and no matter where they went ... everyone they touched wound up better for it."

Yow was remembered for her graceful fight against breast cancer, her gold medal-winning performance for the U.S. at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and the Wolfpack's inspirational postseason run in 2007. That team, fueled by Yow's return from cancer treatments, upset undefeated and No. 1 Duke to reach the ACC championship game and advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament.

"I'm still dealing with the fact that she isn't here," said her sister, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow. "She would be so proud ... (because) winning the right way did matter to Kay."

A moment of silence was held for former N.C. State men's player Lorenzo Charles. The hero of the Wolfpack's improbable run to the 1983 national championship was killed earlier this week in a bus accident.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press