Legendary Tar Heels coach Dean Smith dies at age 83

deansmithLegendary University of North Carolina basketball coach and beloved figure throughout the Tar Heel State Dean Smith died Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. Smith was 83.

With 879 victories in 36 years on the bench with the Tar Heels, Smith is fourth on the all-time wins list in college basketball, including two NCAA national championships and 11 Final Four appearances.

Smith’s program produced some of the most recognizable NBA talent in the history of the sport, including Michael Jordan, and several of his players went on to become coaches or executives in the sport. Most notably, Larry Brown, George Karl and current Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.

Smith was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama in 2013. His wife, Linnea, accepted on his behalf. The family had announced in 2010 that Smith suffered from a neurological disorder impacting his memory.

Raised in Kansas, where his father was a high school teacher and basketball coach, Smith played at Kansas for legendary coach Phog Allen after earning an academic scholarship. He was on the 1952 team that won the national championship. He was hired as an assistant coach at North Carolina in 1958, the year after the Tar Heels went undefeated and won the title. He was hired as UNC head coach in 1961.

Smith stressed team and morality. He was never investigating for wrongdoing or violations of NCAA rules and spoke out against segregation when he recruited New York high school star Charlie Scott, who would become the first black superstar in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the 1960s. Scott was drafted and played in the NBA for the Suns.

When Smith retired in 1997, he held the NCAA record for wins.

Photo courtesy of ACC

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