Editorial: Oakland Zoo shows some class for UNC’s late Dean Smith

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Last Saturday, Pitt’s Oakland Zoo proved to possess just as much class as it does sting.

Students don’t always realize that their actions brand their school. The Zoo is known to resort to “cheat sheets” about players on rival teams to distract players and get in their heads. The associated notoriety, then, is sometimes the first thing outsiders learn about Pitt. However, last Saturday, the Zoo put a positive spin on not only Pitt athletics but the University as a whole. 

When the Panthers’ PA announcer called for a moment of silence to honor University of North Carolina’s legendary, late coach, Dean Smith, students in the front row of the Zoo unfurled a banner that read, “You should never be proud of doing what’s right. You should just do what’s right.”

The Zoo’s members gave the banner and a poster-sized sympathy card expressing their condolences to current UNC coach Roy Williams. Williams was appreciative of the gesture. He told The News & Observer that “college athletics are not all bad. There’s some darn good things that go on … I told those kids that I would keep those. They will never be tossed.”

The message is a powerful quote from Smith. The quote, which he said last year to John Feinstein of the Washington Post, was Smith’s response about his contributions to civil rights — one of his greatest legacies on and off the court.

Using his power as coach, Smith recruited Charles Scott, the ACC’s first notable black basketball player, to North Carolina in 1966. Off the court, he invited a black theology student to join him for a meal at a local Chapel Hill restaurant in 1964 — right after the Civil Rights Act passed the Congress. He fully recognized that the establishment wouldn’t dare boot the black student in Smith’s presence, because doing so would risk a loss of business.

The banner epitomized Smith’s legacy well and also reflected a value that college sports should all hold in esteem — respect. The hooting and hollering, name-calling and browbeating are all parts of the game, but so is the mutual understanding that when a member of the college sports community is lost, it is time to put the games aside and be serious. 

As the faces of Pitt, students should recognize the media approval of this display of respect and continue to show strides in efforts to create positive press.