A $200 Tar Heel Surprise

A letter to former Tar Heel Dante Calabria, accompanied with a $200 check, started making the rounds online yesterday. Tim Breedlove, the accountant who wrote the letter, verified it as real.

For all the ugly things associated with sports it seems I write about almost weekly here, from Greg Hardy to Alex Rodriguez to Donald Sterling and everything in between, its nice to be able to bring attention to a story that for a change is truly heart warming. This week, former North Carolina lettermen that played for the legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, received a special delivery that none could have expected. Smith, who passed away last month at the age of 83, made sure he had one last chance to give a special thank you to all his former players. It came in the form of a letter from an accounting firm along with a check for $200 – the letter brought with it a simple but special message – to enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Smith.

Tim Breedlove, in charge of Smith’s trust, told ESPN.com that the $200 checks were sent out on Monday to about 180 letter winners from Smith’s 36 years on the bench, while a few others were still being tracked down. Players, as you can imagine, were surprised by the delivery – but not shocked. “We never expected anything like this,” said Jeb Barlow, who lettered at UNC from 1980-1982. “But it doesn’t surprise me that this was done.”

Serge Zwikker, who played for Smith from 1993-1997 said, “My wife opened the letter and handed it to me. At first I didn’t know what it was, but when it hit me, it put a tear in my eye. Even after he passed, he was still all about his players. I don’t think I can cash this. If anything, I will donate it to a good cause.”

Brad Daugherty, a Tar Heel under Smith from ‘82-’86 now an analyst with ESPN, said his check will be “framed and mounted on his office wall.”

“This was the kind of man that he was,” Breedlove said. “It’s one more example of his thoughtfulness.”

Smith, who spent his entire head coaching career at North Carolina, amassed a 879-254 record, including 11 Final Four appearances and two National Championships (1982 and 1993).

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Tom Fireoved is the Co-Founder of ScoreBoardTX and President of Franchise Sports & Entertainment, a Dallas based athlete marketing and consulting agency. He formerly served as Vice President of the Texas Rangers and Executive Vice President of the Dallas Stars.