Chatting with Kenny Smith

Kenny Smith is now best known for his work as an NBA analyst on TNT, but prior to that career, and 11 years in the pros, Smith remains one of the greatest point guards in UNC history. Inside Carolina caught up with the 1987 first-team All-American this week to talk about this year's Tar Heels.

Kenny, first of all, your thoughts on this year's team?
"They have a realistic chance to win the National Championship, which is always a great position to be in. If they lose the National Championship, they got beat. It goes on Classic Sports."

You've always said that about Carolina...
"Right. I've said all my games that are on Classic Sports I know I lost because we were the favorites most of the time so any college game I see on Classic I know I lost because I know there is no way I had a classic game that we were supposed to win and that's how these guys on this year's team are."

What do you like about this team?
"Depth. You know they bring in so many guys that can play and that realistically have a chance to one day make basketball a living whether it's here or overseas. You know when you have that many guys those guys will continue to be a family for a long period of time because you'll stay in touch with guys and work out in the summer so you'll have a longer family stay so to speak. For me it was J.R. Reid and Popson and Joe Wolf and Lebo and all these guys that made basketball their life in their careers, you know Brad Daugherty, Perkins, Jordan, so all of a sudden you can't help but be in a big family."

When you watch Tyler Hansbrough what do you see?
"I see a rough and rugged man. I would have loved to have played with him 'cause he brings such an energy that, as a guard, I would have probably pressured the ball more. I would have played the passing lanes a little deeper. You know, get a little more aggressive. Playing with a guy like that is contagious. I would have loved to have played with him."

Hansbrough's critics say he's not as good of a pro prospect as some of the college game's other top players. As an NBA analyst, what are your thoughts about his pro potential?
"Well it's people who never played pro basketball saying that about him. If you played pro basketball you understand that the things he does and the qualities he has are not running rampant through the league and he's an offensive threat as well as all of those other things so you know he's gonna have a 10- to 15-year NBA career."

What about Ty Lawson as a player?
"Well it's obvious that he's the catalyst. When he's out they don't look the same. Still though, it's great to see Quentin get to play and play well. Q has played well so you know after all the injuries he's had throughout his career you know it's great to see him get an opportunity to play and show that he can play. But you know Ty is the guy that makes them a possible National Championship team. He puts so much pressure on the defense and the offense."

I know you are a busy guy - how much do you get to keep in touch and keep an eye on what's going on with the team in Chapel Hill?
"All the time, all the time. I watch the games, get a chance to see them. I talked to Coach Williams last week. I always leave messages. We can't help but do it around here at TNT because everyone knows that I'm just as much a fan as an alumnus so I'm always paying attention to what's going on and always excited."

When you and Coach Williams talk are the chats about the team?
"We reminisce more than anything and then it goes to the team and where they are and stuff. You know I just try to give a perspective of what I see and what I don't see. Not in terms of strategy you know. We're just talking basketball, not a strategic conversation but more what's going on. In fact in the preseason I'll call his secretary and leave messages or call the assistant coaches and ask questions like 'Who won the mile?' That way I know who is coming in in shape or 'Who did the 220's?' so I know. I want to see who is coming in ready and who is surprising and coming in to the season in shape - things like that because those are the things that you remember more than anything."

Coach Williams has gone on record and said that Ty is the fastest point guard he's ever coached. I immediately thought of you when he said that. Your thoughts on that - I mean, you were called 'The Jet?'
"Hmmm ... I don't know if he is faster than I was, but you know you got a Lamborghini and a Ferrari so it's just depending on who gets in gear quicker, but they are both fast."

You're not willing to concede that title as the fastest, huh?
"No, I don't think personally ... I used to honestly think that when I was at my fastest I didn't think anyone was as fast as me with the ball. I think that if you put me on a track with a basketball and had someone running I would beat them. The difference with him is that he is quick. I'd say he's more quick than I am ... I'm faster. I could get from baseline to baseline in three dribbles and dunk it. I used to do a drill every time I spoke at camps and at all the Carolina camps that was my M.O. You know, I'd come in there and I'd speak then I'd go start on the end line and take three dribbles - take off from like one step inside the free throw line and dunk it to show how fast you can be getting up the court. You know everyone thinks a New York point guard dribbles so much but I'm like 'Nah, I don't need that many dribbles.' From halfcourt I could take one dribble and dunk it."

Check out a highlight reel from Kenny Smith's Tar Heel days ...

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