North Carolina honors Dean Smith by opening in four corners

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When Dean Smith would have his North Carolina teams run the four corners offense to protect a late lead, the stall tactic would often inspire groans and complaints from opposing fans.

The reception was much different Saturday when the Tar Heels ran Smith's trademark offensive set in their first home game since the legendary coach's death two weeks ago.

Everyone on the North Carolina bench raised four fingers in the air before the team's opening possession against Georgia Tech and the five Tar Heels on the floor responded by getting into position. Point guard Marcus Paige then finished the tribute in the ideal way, finding a cutting Brice Johnson for a layup to open the scoring 23 seconds into the Tar Heels' 89-60 rout.

Opening with the four corners set was the most memorable of several tributes North Carolina planned in Smith's honor. The game began with a moment of silence for Smith and the Tar Heels also wore throwback jerseys from the early 1980s.

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Smith, who died at age 83, led North Carolina to 11 Final Fours and two national championships, the first in 1982 and the second in 1993. Many of his 879 career victories were salted away using the four corners offense, most famously a 47-45 victory over Virginia in the 1982 ACC title game in which the top-ranked Tar Heels held the ball for most of the game's final eight minutes.

To thwart the stall tactics, the NCAA adopted a 45-second shot clock in men's basketball beginning with the 1985-86 season. The shot clock was reduced to 35 seconds eight years later.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!