Dean Smith Rumors
In that famed summer of 1980, while Pinckney, Ewing and Mullin previewed their future dominance in the Big East down in Honesdale, a scrawny unknown kid with a forgettable name had coaches in Pittsburgh asking the same question over and over: Who the hell is Mike Jordan? While his peers scrambled, Roy Williams positioned himself at each of Jordan’s stations, grinning like a Cheshire cat. Weeks earlier, Williams, then just a second-year assistant to Dean Smith, spied Jordan at North Carolina’s own camp, mesmerized not just by the player’s obvious skill but his commitment. He wasn’t entirely an unknown commodity. Bill Guthridge watched him in a high school game earlier but wasn’t quite sure about him. He’d only shot jump shots that night, and so Guthridge couldn’t vouch for Jordan’s athleticism. The staff decided to extend an invite to their summer camp, so they could evaluate him a little more and get an early inside track.
At the Carolina camp, Williams worked at Carmichael Gym, where players would come in groups of 20 in the afternoon for 30-minute runs of pickup. Jordan not only asked to stay an extra session, but after hoofing it the mile or so back to the Granville Tower dorms once his extra time ended, he walked all the way back in the Carolina heat to play again. That night Williams and fellow assistant Eddie Fogler sat around talking about players they liked that day. “I’ll never forget this,’’ Williams says. “I looked at Eddie and said, ‘I just saw the best 6-4 player I’ve ever seen.’’’ Fogler thought Williams was crazy. Jordan’s name didn’t appear anywhere on Street & Smith’s top 650 players. Fogler watched Jordan for himself the next day, as did Smith. “From then on, Coach Smith had breakfast or lunch with Michael every day,’’ Williams says with a laugh. When camp ended, Williams asked Jordan’s high school coach, Clifton Herring, about Jordan’s summer plans.
That summer in Pittsburgh, Brendan Malone, then a Syracuse assistant who would go on to be an NBA head coach, had to rush home after his wife was involved in a moped accident. He entrusted his pick to Konchalski, telling him to take Aubrey Sherrod, the stud guard out of Kansas. Instead after watching the games, he selected Jordan. “Who the f— is Mike Jordan?” Malone exploded, upon returning to camp to see his team. “By the end of the week they handed out five individual awards,’’ Williams says. “He got all five of them.’’
How do you create synergy with your leadership? Steve Kerr: The players have to be accepting of coaching, accepting of partnership. Michael Jordan really respected Phil. Maybe it was because he played for Dean Smith and recognized the power of a great coach. Phil recognized the power of an alliance between them and had a great respect. Tim Duncan was to ‘Pop’ what Steph Curry is for me. It’s an amazing, generational talent who also happens to be unbelievably humble and amenable to coaching and, if necessary, criticism. Those players in many cases determine whether that culture is going to form, whether they’re really going to allow the coach to implement things he’s looking to do.
Scott Williams: “We find ourselves down one late in the game, I’ve got the ball in my hands — I believe it was off an offensive rebound because they really didn’t throw the young college kid the ball very much — and fire one of these textbook, two-hand chest passes that Dean Smith taught me right over to M.J., who’s on the baseline about 19-20 feet out and he goes up, tongue out of his mouth, patented Jordan form on the jumper, right up over the defender and cans the bucket for the win. So he’s the one that makes a call to Jerry Krause leaving that game saying, ‘Hey, I think Scott Williams might be able to help us out.’ … I always say I am the luckiest undrafted player in the history of the NBA, if there is such a thing.”
“Roy Williams (then a young UNC assistant) told us a great story about how everyone got one chance to play in Carmichael (Auditorium) during the UNC camp week,” Hehir said. “Michael killed everybody. After seeing him play, Dean Smith pulled Roy aside and told him, ‘This kid can’t go to any other camp.’ But Roy insisted that he had to go to Five-Star to see how he would do against Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and all these other kids. “I knew that we were going to do an episode on the making of Michael Jordan. Brendon Malone appears with us (in ‘The Last Dance’) primarily as Chuck Daly’s assistant for the Pistons, but back then he was a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach and Michael’s coach at Five-Star. He told us stories about Michael’s will to win as a 16- and 17-year-old.”
“Early on, I wasn’t that familiar with him in college,’’ Frazier told The Post in a phone interview Tuesday from his Harlem residence. “Anyone who plays for Dean Smith, he holds them back. Vince Carter, (James) Worthy. You never know the versatility of these guys when they play for North Carolina. He keeps them in a team system. No one knew he was going to do what he did.”