Chapel Hill: Opinion

Maureen Rosen: ‘The Dean guy’

Dean Smith signed this for a not-yet fan at his grandson’s baseball game.
Dean Smith signed this for a not-yet fan at his grandson’s baseball game. courtesy of Maureen Dolan Rosen

My husband, Norm, and I, newly wed in D.C. and itching to get out of the big city, moved to North Carolina in 1990.

It was true then, and is still true today, that it would be impossible for me to care less about sports. My husband, however, is an enthusiastic college sports fan.

I had taken a job with a home care agency in Durham, and my boss was a rabid UNC fan and graduate, and a friend of Dean Smith. I had no idea what March Madness was, or the Final Four, or for that matter, which local team was coached by Dean Smith or which by the guy with the long named that didn’t sound anything like it was spelled.

One day, a couple of years into my job, my boss asked my advice on how to handle a particularly sticky management situation. I thought about it, and offered some suggestions, and then said, “You know, management is a lot like coaching. Why don’t you ask your friend Coach K for his advice?” He looked at me, puzzled, and silent.

“Oh,” I said. “Is that the wrong one?” My boss continued staring at me, waiting to see just how deep I would dig this hole, disdain quickly creeping in. I went blithely on, ignorant of my error.

“Is it that Dean guy?” I said.

He looked down, then up, then shook his head, and finally said, ever so sarcastically, “Uh, yeah. It’s that Dean guy.”

When I told my husband that night what I had done, he was horrified.

“You said that?!” he gasped. “Are you still employed?” From then on, at our house, sightings of the coach in the paper or on television prompted cries of “Oh, honey, look: it’s the Dean Guy!”

Fast forward to several years later, when our then-7-year-old son was playing rec league baseball. His team was playing the final game of the season at the Anderson fields in Carrboro, and my husband went to watch the game. When they arrived home, Norm came into the house with a grin on his face, waving a rolled up newspaper.

“I have a surprise for you.” he said.

One of Dean Smith’s grandsons happened to be on the opposing team, Dean was in attendance to watch, and people were asking him for autographs and shaking his hand. He was unfailingly polite and gracious to everyone. Norm approached Coach Smith and explained about his sports-deficient wife, and told him that in our house, he was very affectionately known as “The Dean Guy”, and why, and asked him to autograph the paper as such.

To my husband’s amazement, Dean Smith did exactly that, and to this day, our refrigerator is adorned with a small corner of a newspaper page that says simply “Best wishes to Maureen, The Dean Guy.”

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dean Smith, but he was one in a million, and to my family, he will always be The Dean Guy.

Maureen Dolan Rosen lives in Chapel Hill.