"The only man able to stop Michael Jordan was Dean Smith,” a popular professional basketball saying goes. Dean Smith’s was Michael Jordan’s college coach at the University of North Carolina. Jordan averaged 17.7 points a game in his three years in Smith’s team-first system.
“He (Dean Smith—ed.) was the only man capable of holding Michael Jordan under 20 points” was cited in April 1987, during Jordan’s third NBA season. The saying has been used to apply to any coach (in any sport) seemingly holding a player back from greater personal statistics.
Wikipedia: Michael Jordan
Michael Jeffrey Jordan (born February 17, 1963), also known by his initials, MJ, is an American former professional basketball player. He is also a businessman, and principal owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets. Jordan played 15 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. His biography on the NBA website states: “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” Jordan was one of the most effectively marketed athletes of his generation and was considered instrumental in popularizing the NBA around the world in the 1980s and 1990s.
Wikipedia: Dean Smith
Dean Edwards Smith (February 28, 1931 – February 7, 2015) was an American head coach of men’s college basketball. Originally from Emporia, Kansas, Smith was called a “coaching legend” by the Basketball Hall of Fame. He is best known for his 36-year coaching tenure at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Smith coached from 1961 to 1997 and retired with 879 victories, which was the NCAA Division I men’s basketball record at that time. Smith had the 9th highest winning percentage of any men’s college basketball coach (77.6%). During his tenure as head coach, North Carolina won two national championships and appeared in 11 Final Fours.
3 April 1987, Medicine Hat (Alberta) News, “Bulls will always be competitive with Jordan” by Bob O’Donnell (Fort Worth Star-Telegram), pg. A14, col. 1:
Cynics say North Carolina’s Dean Smith had to be the best defensive coach in the United States because he was the only man capable of holding Michael Jordan under 20 points.
In three seasons at North Carolina, Jordan averaged 17.7 points, a respectable but not spectacular number. He won his only Atlantic Coast Conference scoring championship with a 19.6 mark.
24 January 1988, Greensboro (NC) News & Record, “Browning,” pg. B6, col. 1:
Jordan blossomed so much as a pro that there’s a saying prevalent in the NBA now that the only man who ever held Michael Jordan to less than 20 points a game was Dean Smith.
6 November 1990, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, CA), “Strege: Heat on Westhead,” pg. D12, col. 6:
Purists prefer puppeteers, coaches who pull strings and refuse to relinquish control North Carolina’s Dean Smith is one. Smith is recalled as the only man to hold Michael Jordan to under 20 points. Enough said.
7 April 1993, Augusta (GA) Chronicle, “Smith makes point with second crown” by Blackie Sherrod, pg. C8, col. 2:
There is even sniping that Smith’s “system” style hobbles exceptional talent in favor of team concept. The old gag: Only one man can hold Michael Jordan under 25 points, and that man is Dean Smith.
By Ken Rosenthal
Champaign, IL: Sports Publishing
Everything in the program was about team — eating, playing basketball, traveling. It was never about the individual. You’d hear the kidding about how the only person who could hold Michael Jordan down was Dean Smith.
But in reality, that’s what we all wanted to do in terms of coaching, making the team better.
A Razorback House Divided
By Robert Shields
Fruitbat Books (FruitbatBooks.com)
An old joke use to be the only person who could shut down Michael Jordan was Dean Smith. Maybe the only person who can shut down Darren McFadden is Houston Nutt.
College Basketball Loses A Legend: Dean Smith Dead At 83
February 8, 2015 11:40 AM ET
Sad news from the sports world: UNC coach Dean Smith passed away Saturday night. Mike Pesca of Slate.com’s The Gist podcast tells NPR’s Rachel Martin what kind of coach Smith was.
PESCA: Yeah. And that was - and one of the great things that said about Dean Smith is he’s the only man who could keep Michael Jordan under 20. And what that means is Jordan didn’t average 20 points while playing at UNC because Dean Smith conducted his offense with precision. And it was a slow offense. In fact, he would often go to the four corners, which is passing the ball around before the era of the shot clock, frustrating opponents. Everything he did frustrated opponents because he was so good at it. And his style of play might - wasn’t maybe the most exiting unless you’re a Carolina fan and you enjoyed the wins. But to the basketball cognoscenti, they just look at the complexity of his defenses, just this pure number of different defensive things that the team would do. And no one could quite believe it.
What was the old saw? Only man to stop Michael Jordan was Dean Smith. Well, only man who can stop Derrick Henry is Lane Kiffin #throwitbama
3:33 PM - 17 Oct 2015