This morning the University of North Carolina announced that legendary Tar Heels coach, Dean Edwards Smith, passed away Saturday night. He was 83.
The legendary coach was well known to all basketball fans, amassing a career record of 879-274 over 36 seasons at North Carolina. From 1961 – 1997, Coach Smith lead the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours and 2 National Championships. He also won 13 ACC Tournament titles and coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in the 1976 Games.
His family released the following statement:
“Coach Dean Smith passed away peacefully … at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children,” the Smith family said in a released statement. “We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as arrangements are made available to the public. Thank you.”
He was both an amazing coach and man, and was recognized as such in 2013 when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
“While Coach Smith couldn’t join us today due to an illness that he’s facing with extraordinary courage, we also honor his courage in helping to change our country,” President Obama said during the ceremony. “He recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill. That’s the kind of character he represented on and off the court.”
Dean Smith helped turn boys into men, developing the talents of some of the most respected names in basketball including Bob McAdoo, Kenny Smith, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Phil Ford, James Worthy, Billy Cunningham, Larry Brown and George Karl. But most will always remember him for bringing a young, tongue wagging, skinny kid to Chapel Hill that would help the school win their first NCAA Championship in 1982 over the Georgetown Hoyas, and who would move on the NBA and dominate the league while ushering in a global cultural movement through his play and sneakers. That player is the one that many call The GOAT, Michael Jordan.
Coach Smith, a man who believed in more than basketball, as evidenced by his player graduation rate of almost 97%, will be sorely missed by his family, players, coaches, Tar Heels nation and the basketball world as a whole.
“It is with great sadness we hear the news that Coach Dean Smith has passed away,” said UNC AD Bubba Cunningham. “Each of you knows well how much Coach Smith meant to our university community, the lives he shaped, the example he set on and off the court, and the impact he had on all who knew him and the many who admired him.”
Current UNC Tar Heels Head Coach Roy Williams said it best:
“He was the greatest there ever was on the court but far, far better off the court with people,” Williams said. “His concern for people will be the legacy I will remember most.
“He was a mentor to so many people; he was my mentor. He gave me a chance but, more importantly, he shared with me his knowledge, which is the greatest gift you can give someone.”
“I’m 64 years old and everything I do with our basketball program and the way I deal with the University is driven by my desire to make Coach Smith proud,” Williams said. “When I came back to Carolina, the driving force was to make him proud and I still think that today.
“I’d like to say on behalf of all our players and coaches, past and present, that Dean Smith was the perfect picture of what a college basketball coach should have been. We love him and we will miss him.”
Twitter responses have been flooding in, all with heavy hearts and kind words:
Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) February 8, 2015
Sending my prayers and deepest sympathies to Dean Smith’s family. May we celebrate the gift we all were given with his life.
Pat Summitt (@patsummitt) February 8, 2015
Stuart Scott now has his all-time best with him to talk Tar Heels hoops. RIP, Dean Smith.
Rich Eisen (@richeisen) February 8, 2015
Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 8, 2015
Just a sad day for basketball to lose one of the great coaches of all-time in Dean Smith.
John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 8, 2015
Dean Smith believed in family on the court and extended family off the court.The sky is Carolina blue today as we honor you and your legacy.
Coach John Lucas (@CoachJohnLucas1) February 8, 2015
We’re saddened to hear of the loss of Dean Smith – a tremendous coach and teacher, but an even better person. Condolences to the UNC family.
Duke Athletics (@Duke_ATHLETICS) February 8, 2015