For almost forty years, Dean Smith coached the University of North Carolina men's basketball program with unsurpassed success- on the court and in shaping young men's lives. Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Mar 2015
From the cover
A Kansas Childhood
I'm a Kansan, even though I've lived most of my adult life in North Carolina. I speak like a Kansan, in a flat Midwest voice free of any accent. I'm not quick to say aloud what's on my mind. I say what I think-just not everything I think-and some would say that, too, is speaking like a Kansan.
In Kansas the sky seems somehow bigger. Driving through, it feels like the longest state in the union, and it's a fact that the sun rises thirty minutes later on the western border than it does on the eastern. Lines of dark limestone hills crested by mustard-colored tall rippling grasses seem to go on forever, and so do the blacktop roads that roll up and over the hills. The monotony is broken every few miles by midwestern towns, each one much like the last. Among them is a place called Emporia, a university town of low-slung brick buildings, tree-lined streets of Victorian houses with inviting front porches, and a railroad track. That's where I spent the first fifteen years of my life, before moving to the capital of Kansas, Topeka.
The austere landscape of Kansas, its hills and prairies, belie its tempestuous history and even more tempestuous-some would say biblical-weather, which brings the state more than its share of twisters, blizzards, hailstorms, prairie fires, and locusts. I was never blown to Oz as a child, but I may have come close.
Once upon a time, as they say, a family named Smith settled in Kansas, and unlike some of their neighbors, managed not to become farmers. (Ninety-six percent of the land in the state of Kansas is devoted to farming, but farmers actually make up a small percentage of the people who live there.) I'm the son of schoolteachers.
My mother, Vesta Edwards, taught at all levels, from elementary school reading to college psychology courses. She was also our church's organist. My father, Alfred Smith, was a teacher and coach of the football, basketball, and track teams at Emporia High, as well as a church deacon. Teaching and coaching was all I ever thought about as a profession because it struck me that in addition to being very good people, my parents were also deeply happy ones. It seems fitting to me that Emporia is now the home of the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
I grew up in a small stucco bungalow that was built by my parents with the help of my mother's father, a cement mason who also poured the foundation for one of the local Baptist churches. The house cost $3,500 when they put it up in 1936, which was actually a substantial price in those days. By way of comparison, you could wander down to Gould's Cafe and buy a chicken dinner with salad, three vegetables, and a roll for 35 cents. You got a choice of iced tea or coffee and dessert too. My parents were so happy in Emporia that when my father was offered the head football coaching job at Wichita North High School, one of the largest schools in the state, he turned it down because he and my mother didn't want to leave.
Five of us lived in the two-bedroom house, which had just a single bath with hardwood floors and a second-floor sleeping porch, which became my room. My sister, Joan, was born the year before the stock market crash in 1928, and I was born in 1931, and between us and my Grandmother Edwards, who moved in with us when she was seventy-two, the house was pretty crowded. That was what you did in those days: You took care of your grandparents. It wasn't unusual for three generations to live in one small house.
Emporia was a town of only about fourteen thousand, but it had prosperity and a cultural life unusual for a place of that size because we had two colleges, Kansas State Teachers College...