Tommy Tomlinson: CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Dean Smith doesn’t watch the games anymore. The motion on the screen is too hard to follow. Now he thumbs through golf magazines and picture books. Most of the books are about North Carolina basketball. They seem to make him happy. He turns the pages past photo after photo of himself. Nobody knows if he knows who he is.
Music seems to make him happy, too. About a year and a half ago, a friend named Billy Barnes came over to the house to play guitar and sing a few songs. Barnes played old Baptist hymns and barbershop quartet tunes — Daisy Daisy, give me your answer true. Music he knew Dean liked. But nothing seemed to get through. Dean was getting restless. Barnes asked if he could play one more song.
After every basketball game, win or lose, the UNC band plays the alma mater and fight song. The Carolina people stand and sing. Barnes knew Dean had heard the song thousands of times. He started to play.
Dean jumped to his feet. He waved at his wife, Linnea, to stand with him. He put his hand over his heart and sang from memory:
Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and true.
Singing Carolina’s praises,
Hail to the brightest star of all
Clear its radiance shine
Carolina priceless gem,
Receive all praises thine.
I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred, and when I die I’m a Tar Heel dead!
So it’s rah-rah Car’lina-lina, rah-rah Car’lina-lina, rah-rah Carolina, rah, rah, rah!
“It was just pure joy. That uninhibited joy in the music,” Linnea says. “It’s one of those moments that you know there’s more there, or momentarily there, than sometimes you’re aware of.”
This is what she hopes for now. A moment of joy. A moment of connection. A moment when Dean Smith is still there.