Year
1931

Basketball coaching legend Dean Smith born

On February 28, 1931, legendary college basketball coach Dean Smith is born in Emporia, Kansas. Smith retired in 1997 with 879 wins, making him the most successful coach in college basketball history.

A talented high school and college athlete, Smith attended the University of Kansas on an academic scholarship. He was a member of the Jayhawks team that won the 1952 national basketball championship under famed coach Forrest “Phog” Allen. After graduation, Smith served in the U.S. Air Force and later coached the Air Force baseball and golf teams. In 1958, he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and three years later became the head coach.

Under Smith, the Tar Heels won two national championship titles, in 1982 and 1993, and made it to the Final Four playoffs 11 times. During his 36 years of heading up UNC’s basketball program, he coached such future NBA stars as Michael Jordan, who referred to Smith as a second father, James Worthy, Rick Fox, Vince Carter and Rasheed Wallace. Smith was known as an innovative coach who popularized such tactics as the four corners defense, the fatigue signal and the foul-line huddle. His teams won at least 20 games for 27 consecutive seasons and finished among the top three teams in the A.C.C. for 33 years running. Just as impressively, more than 97% of his players left UNC with a degree.

At the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Smith coached Team USA to a gold medal. In 1986, UNC opened a massive new arena, the Dean Smith Center, also known as the Dean Dome. Smith announced his retirement in October 1997. With 879 wins under his belt, he was the most successful men’s college basketball coach in history. Smith’s record was broken when University of Indiana coach Bobby Knight won his 880th game on January 1, 2007.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Pope Benedict resigns

On this day in 2013, less than three weeks after making the unexpected announcement that he would step down, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI officially resigns. Citing advanced age as the reason for giving up his post as the leader of the 1.2 billion-member Roman Catholic Church, ...read more

First NATO Military Action

In the first military action in the 45-year history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), U.S. fighter planes shoot down four Serbian warplanes engaged in a bombing mission in violation of Bosnia’s no-fly zone. The United States, 10 European countries, and Canada ...read more

Getty Museum endowed

On February 28, 1982, the J. Paul Getty Museum becomes the most richly endowed museum on earth when it receives a $1.2 billion bequest left to it by the late J. Paul Getty. The American oil billionaire died in 1976, but legal wrangling over his fortune by his children and ...read more

ATF raids Branch Davidian compound

At Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, agents of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) launch a raid against the Branch Davidian compound as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Christian cult. As the ...read more

Congress creates Colorado Territory

With the region’s population booming because of the Pike’s Peak gold rush, Congress creates the new Territory of Colorado. When the United States acquired it after the Mexican War ended in 1848, the land that would one day become Colorado was nearly unpopulated by Anglo settlers. ...read more

Thelonious Monk makes the cover of Time magazine

Beatlemania was at its peak in the winter of 1964, but not every music fan had the Beatles’ brand of rock and roll on their turntable. In fact, it was jazz music—vital, innovative, contemporary jazz music—that captured the imagination of a significant proportion of American music ...read more

Ben Hecht is born

Novelist, playwright, and screenwriter Ben Hecht was born on this day in New York City to Russian Jewish immigrants. Hecht’s family moved to Racine, Wisconsin, where Hecht attended high school. He started studies at the University of Wisconsin but soon quit and took a job chasing ...read more

Final episode of M*A*S*H airs

On this day in 1983, the celebrated sitcom M*A*S*H bows out after 11 seasons, airing a special two-and-a-half hour episode watched by 77 percent of the television viewing audience. It was the largest percentage ever to watch a single TV show up to that time. Set near Seoul, ...read more

Subway crash in London kills 43

On this day in 1975, a subway crash in London kills 43 people. The driver of the train apparently made no effort to brake as the train headed toward a dead end. The reason for his inaction remains a mystery. The southbound Northern City Line train was making its usual run into ...read more

Gorbachev calls for nuclear weapons treaty

In a surprising announcement, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev indicates that his nation is ready to sign “without delay” a treaty designed to eliminate U.S. and Soviet medium-range nuclear missiles from Europe. Gorbachev’s offer led to a breakthrough in negotiations and, ...read more

Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid begins

On this day in 1864, amajor Union cavalry raid begins when General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick leads 3,500 troopers south from Stevensburg, Virginia. Aimed at Richmond, the raid sought to free Federal prisoners and spread word of President Abraham Lincoln’s Proclamation of Amnesty and ...read more

Racing legend Mario Andretti born

Mario Andretti, whose name will become synonymous with American auto racing, is born in Montona, Italy, on February 28, 1940. In a career that spanned five decades, Andretti was known for his versatility as a driver, taking the checkered flag behind the wheel of sports cars, ...read more