Legendary Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith dies at 83

University of North Carolina vs University of Virginia

Coach Dean Smith celebrates a victory with Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Former University of North Carolina head coach Dean Smith passed away Saturday night at the age of 83. The humble Hall of Famer turned UNC into a national powerhouse while quietly fighting for equality, and retired as the winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball history.

879 career wins. 17 ACC regular-season championships. 13 ACC tournament titles. 11 Final Fours. 2 NCAA championships. Only 1 losing season. Smith guided his teams to victory on every level, including 1976 when he led Team USA to an Olympic gold medal in Montreal. But the number that meant the most to him was 96.

Coach Smith graduated more than 96 percent of his players in his 36 years at UNC. His parents were teachers, and he was dedicated to education and teaching beyond the walls of school buildings. He cared about what his players did away from the court and after clocks hit triple zero. His Carolina family, from assistant coach down to freshman walk-on, meant the world to him. He had a positive relationship with them all, writing letters and giving advice and a helping hand whenever he could.

Everyone in their recollection of Smith has said he was an even better person than he was a coach. Smith’s contributions to society far outweigh his record on the court. He was honored for his dedication to civil rights, receiving the Arthur Ashe for Courage Award in 1998, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Not wanting any credit for doing what was right, Smith quietly helped to integrate the basketball program at UNC and the town of Chapel Hill. He proudly recruited Charlie Scott, the Tar Heel’s first African-American scholarship athlete.

While presenting his former coach with the James A. Naismith Sportsmanship Award, Scott said Smith never talked about him being the first; it was all about being a human. He treated everyone he encountered with respect and dignity, the way all humans should be treated.

The world, not just Tar Heel nation, lost an amazing human being with the passing of Dean Smith. He was a brilliant coach, a man of great integrity and character, and selfless in all of his actions. May his legacy live forever, and his soul rest in peace.

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