Dean Smith, Phil Ford remain linked in North Carolina history

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By Powell Latimer/The Greensboro News & Record

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Phil Ford was always close with his coaches growing up. So it only made sense that Ford, as a high school senior in Rocky Mount, wanted a similar bond with his college coach.

“It’s not only basketball then,” Ford said. “You’re looking at someone who would share their whole life with you.”

Ford found exactly what he was looking for in Dean Smith, and the two remained linked for the rest of Smith’s life. Smith made an immediate impression on Ford by not promising him starting time – unlike many of the other coaches recruiting him. Initially, Ford wavered.

“My momma helped me with that,” Ford said. “She told me that was him being honest, and that meant that he wouldn’t be promising my spot to some other high school All-American.”

It became a strong partnership. Ford, the national player of the year in 1978, is considered the greatest point guard to play at North Carolina, is perhaps the most popular Tar Heel in history, and his No. 12 is among eight retired numbers by the program. He finished as UNC’s career leader in points, and that record stood for three decades.

Read more: The Greensboro News & Record