Dean DomeDespite all the stories he does for and WCHL, there’s still only one Matt Oakes.

Therefore, when Matt O took off for Charlotte to cover Florida State’s rout over Duke in the ACC title game, Matt P had an opening to report on Saturday’s Tar Heels men’s game vs. UNC-Greensboro.

I did not tell my colleagues, but it was my first venture into the Dean E. Smith Center, a.k.a. the Dean Dome. The signage to the arena may not be the greatest, but I still shouldn’t have had to double back to the road where drivers were clearly turning in.

Despite being winded from an uphill walk to the Dean Dome (partly my fault for still having to drop a few lbs), I had enough energy to sign in for my press pass and eventually find my seat. Despite being a nearly three-decade-old facility, amidst rumors of being replaced or renovated, the Dean Dome is a pretty impressive place.

roy williams unc basketball ncaa 2013The “ginormic” video and scoreboards are put to good use with constant updates of who is on the court and their stats. Videos about players discussing their favorite movies, for instance, also humanized them to the crowd.

It may be UNC basketball, and it may be BIG around here, but these are still young men after all, so it was a nice touch.

So was seeing coach Roy Williams handing out a few souvenirs to the student section as he made his way to the bench. Williams may be on his way to legendary status as a coach, but he also has a common touch as smooth as the icing on a red velvet cake.

Williams’ calm demeanor should serve the team well as it navigates its way through a rocky start, including impressive wins over Louisville and Michigan State, but also disappointing setbacks to UAB and Belmont.

The Tar Heels handled UNCG 81-50, so there was plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds of the Dean Dome. The crowd was pumped up and did a nice job of staying excited from the opening tip-off through the middle of the second half. In fact, fans only began filing out with seven minutes left in the tilt.

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

The only thing missing from the Dean Dome may have been a little more from or about Dean.

It’s highly appropriate and timely that the Tar Heels will honor the legendary coach at halftime during Saturday’s game vs. Kentucky.

Smith may be an average name, but Dean Smith was certainly no average coach.

Neither is the facility that bears his name.