Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Inside the Dean E. Smith Center
and Carolina Basketball Museum

Last month, I devoted 10 posts to my travels to Savannah, Ga., Charleston, S.C., and North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

In between the two South Carolina stops, Lee Ann and I swung north to the Raleigh, N.C., area to visit family. While there, I took a trip to the Carolina Basketball Museum and Dean E. Smith Center on the campus of the University of North Carolina. The museum uses first-floor space of the university's Ernie Williamson Athletic Center.

There are few places in the country that possess the college basketball pedigree that UNC owns, so a visit to the museum and Smith Center -- which are located on the south end of campus -- is pretty special. Admission to the museum is free, but you do have to pay for parking in a lot across the street.

The Smith Center, two buildings down from the museum, doesn't regularly have tours or formal visits. I happened to inquire about getting access, and a museum staffer told me how to slip in. The museum and Smith Center are separated by the Maurice Koury Natatorium, although the Smith Center and natatorium are connected through basement halls.

I include a few of my photos from that visit in today's post. I had visited UNC in summer of 2015 and presented photos of the campus in a post from my self-guided tour when I was there. But I was there on a Sunday, and the museum and Smith Center are closed on Sundays, so I couldn't get access.

As always, click on any image to bring up a larger, sharper version. This is particularly important if you access the blog while using a mobile device. A full gallery of images from my visit to the Carolina Basketball Museum, Dean E. Smith Center and UNC Natatorium can be found at my site at

Photo geek stuff: Photos in this post were taken with a Canon 6D equipped with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens. Each photo was bracketed for three exposures (normal and plus and minus 2/3) for possible later melding into one using high-dynamic range (HDR) software in post-processing.

The Ernie Williams Athletics Center (above) houses the Carolina Basketball Museum on the main level. Adjacent to this building (to the right) are the Maurice Koury Natatorium (below left) and Dean E. Smith Center basketball arena (below right). Although the photo below shows the natatorium and basketball arena separated at ground level, they do connect via a hall at the basement level.

Above: In my 2015 post, I lead with a photo of the Smith Center facing Skipper Bowles Drive. This is a view of the arena from the reverse side. 

Above: Inside the door to the Smith Center basketball offices door one sees this bust of the arena's namesake. Smith was head basketball coach at UNC from 1961-1997 and had been assistant coach for three seasons before that. He finished with a head coaching record of 879-254, a winning percentage of 77.6. Smith died in February 2015, 21 days shy of his 84th birthday.

In the museum, there is a trophy case (above) dedicated to UNC's championships in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and a display devoted to the school team's contemporary success (below). 

Eric Montross is an important Indiana connection to UNC. Montross played for UNC after playing four years at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, where he led the Wildcats to a state championship in 1989. He wore the shoes above in North Carolina's 1993 NCAA championship game against Michigan, a 77-71 victory for the Tar Heels. Eleven years before that, Michael Jordan wore the shoes below in UNC's run to the NCAA championship.

Above and below: Two views of the spacious display area in the museum. 

Above: A display devoted to various UNC logo attire through the years.

A display case (above) devoted to Michael Jordan, the school's most famous basketball alumnus. The case includes such things as the shoes shown higher up in this post, a recruiting card (first photo below) that Dean Smith kept on file while "Magic" Jordan was in high school, and a copy of the letter of regret that Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski sent to Jordan after the Duke coach learned that Jordan had selected UNC over Duke. 

Above: The museum gives visitors this perspective of the approximate distance, or "look," from the spot on the court that Michael Jordan had when he sunk the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA championship game against Georgetown. Jordan's 16-foot jumper put the Tar Heels ahead 63-62 with 15 seconds left in the game, a lead that would hold and earn UNC its first title since 1957.

Above: In the free-throw lane under the basketball hoop shown in the photo above, there are four markers of important UNC baskets made "in the paint." The picture here is what one of those looks like.  

The above display is devoted to UNC basketball alumni who were first-round pics in the NBA; the display below is dedicated to the nine Tar Heels who are the UNC Basketball Hall of Fame: Larry Brown, Ben Carnivale, Billy Cunningham, Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Roy Williams and James Worthy. 

The look above was my first view of the court in the Dean E. Smith Center when I stepped into the bowl. The one below is the traditional view people get when watching UNC home games on television.

Above: Another section of concourse in the Smith Center.

The rafters in the Smith Center are a virtual adjunct to the museum. Above, uniforms of the Tar Heels' best-known players, and below, just one section of all of the school's Atlantic Coast Conference championships.  

Above: There are year by year team photos adorning the upper walls in the Smith Center concourse. The one above is from 1981-82, the school's first NCAA championship team since 1957. It features, standing in back, Michael Jordan (23), James Worthy (52), Sam Perkins (41) and Matt Doherty (44). Head coach Dean Smith is seated third from the left; seated next to Smith, second from the left, is then-assistant coach Roy Williams, who has been the team's head coach since 2003. Previously, Williams had spent 15 years at Kansas and, before that, 10 years as Dean's assistant at UNC.

In the text portion of this post, I mentioned that UNC's Koury Natatorium and the Smith Center are connected through a basement hall. I know that because I accidentally ended up in the natatorium -- without going outdoors -- while trying to exit the Smith Center. I figured I might as well grab the above photo while I was there.

Previous posts in the East Coast trip series from March:

Part I: Savannah's Forsyth Square

Part II: Savannah's old-city neighborhoods 

Part III: Savannah's Riverwalk

Part IV: Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery

Part V: Tybee Island, Ga.

Part VI: Revisiting Charleston, SC, and its charms

Part VII: Nature's splendor can be found at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston

Part VIII: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' swamp preserve a photographer's delight

Part IX: North Myrtle Beach: Chills along the water

Part X: Heritage Shore Nature Preserve in North Myrtle Beach a compact, quick visit

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