Krafcisin touched by Dean Smith's final gesture

Rick Brown

Steve Krafcisin knew what was inside the envelope before he opened it Friday.

But it was still hard for him to rip it open and read the letter inside.

"I didn't cry," Krafcisin said. "But yes, it was emotional."

Krafcisin, the women's basketball coach at Des Moines Area Community College in Boone, was one of 180 former North Carolina lettermen who received letters from the trust of their Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith, who passed away Feb. 7.

Smith had ordered that after his passing, each player who lettered for him would receive a $200 check. The letter included a message from Smith that read, "Enjoy a dinner out, compliments of Coach Dean Smith."

Late North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Dean Smith attends a halftime ceremony honoring ACC legends at the Virginia Tech Hokies and Tar Heels game at the 2008 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Bobcats Arena on March 15, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Krafcisin played just one season for Smith, in 1976-77, before transferring to Iowa. But he has fond memories of his time in Chapel Hill. He credits Smith for helping shape his life. And Smith never forgot him.

"For Coach Smith to do this is definitely in character," Krafcisin said. "Because he was always about us."

Even after Krafcisin left the program, Smith kept in contact. He sent a North Carolina basketball media guide to every one of his former players each season, with a hand-written note.

"He'd always say, 'Say hello to your mom and aunt and brother Jack,' " Krafcisin said.

Smith suffered from Alzheimer's Disease, which is hard for Krafcisin to accept. Smith's sharp memory is a trait Krafcisin admired.

"He could tell a manager from 30 years ago what his girlfriend's name was, what he liked to eat, the name of his mom and dad," Krafcisin said.

Just like the day he heard of Smith's passing, Friday brought Krafcisin's time at North Carolina back into focus.

"I had a great flood of memories from my time there," he said.

Krafcisin isn't sure what he'll do with the $200. He thought about donating it to a charity in Smith's name. He thought about taking his team out for pizza, or taking his wife and three children out to dinner.

"I want to honor what he asked," Krafcisin said. "I know this: I'm going to keep the letter forever, and frame it. It's just a way cool thing."