Editor’s note: Many decades ago, Jay Cooper’s youngest son, Scott, was a reporter for Carolina Blue. Scott recently sent his father a copy of a letter he was sending to Dean Smith on the former coach’s receiving the Medal of Honor from the President Obama. “The letter, is so beautifully genuine, in its sincerity and simplicity, that we thought it might warrant a mention in your newspaper,” Jay Cooper writes.
Dear Coach Smith,
I hope this letter finds you well. I have wanted to send you a note for quite some time simply to let you know how much I enjoyed working with you, your players, coaches, etc., during my time with Carolina Blue. I’m not sure if you recall me, but I worked as a staff reporter with John Kilgo from 1986-1998. I like to tell colleagues that I came to Carolina with J.R. Reid.
I’m certainly grateful to John for giving me the opportunity to cover UNC athletics during an amazing time. Frankly, it’s some of the best memories of my life, both professionally and personally. I was born in Long Island, N.Y., but grew up in Chapel Hill. I then went to ECU. I think John hired me because I was not a Tar Heel fan. But after having an inside view and spending time with your players, managers, former players, etc., it was hard not to pull for the light blue. If truth be known, I was a Duke fan as a kid because Tom Emma came from our same small town (Manhasset, N.Y.). Of course, that was before Coach K’s time.
Anyway, as I encounter hoards of Carolina fans throughout my daily work across the state (I’m in sales at Time Warner), I hear stories upon stories of Carolina games of the past and how Coach Smith did this or did that. Many of those stories I can interject and say I was there and then share an interesting tidbit about that time or about a former UNC player. Now that several years have passed and I’m removed from my time at Blue, I especially cherish those times and what they mean to me now.
I’m sure you get several notes from your former players, coaches, managers and administrators who express their gratitude and admiration toward the way you ran your program. As Kilgo has always expressed, “There was none better.” I must agree, and I just want to say thank you for all those wonderful memories.
As I read about you being honored by President Obama for the Medal of Freedom, I honestly can’t think of a more deserving person. Congratulations on such an honor! I wish you and your family all the best.