Legendary North Carolina basketball coach dies at age 83
Former University of North Carolina head basketball coach, Dean Smith, died Saturday evening in Chapel Hill at age 83.
“Coach Dean Smith passed away peacefully the evening of February 7 at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children,” said the Smith family in a 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.”
Smith was the head coach of the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997. He led UNC to the national championship in 1982 and 1993, to 13 ACC Tournament titles, 11 Final Fours, and an NIT championship. He also led the United States to a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada.
In his 36 years of coaching, Smith’s career record at UNC was 879-254. He set a Division I record for most wins in men’s basketball history, surpassing Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp’s 877 wins with a victory over Colorado in the 1997 NCAA Tournament.
“Coach Smith has a legacy that touched basketball and will be around forever,” current UNC Men’s Basketball coach Roy Williams said. “Guys have heard me say many times that I think Coach Smith was the best there’s ever been on the court.”
Williams spent 10 years as an assistant under Smith from 1978-1988, before returning to the school in 2003 as head coach.
“I can’t imagine anyone being a better influence than Coach Smith,” Williams added. “Sitting at the cafeteria counter was more important than wins and loses. Having Michael Jordan say he was a second father was more important.”
In addition to all the victories, Smith is well known for being the first coach to recruit an African American scholarship player to UNC, Charlie Scott.
Smith was selected into the inaugural class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.