UNC coaching legend Dean Smith passed away at 83


Former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coaching legend Dean Smith passed away Saturday night at the age of 83. Smith’s career is not only a testament to basketball excellence on the court, it also extended to the last guy on the bench whose basketball career ended the day college did.


Born February 28, 1931 in Emporia, Kans., Dean Smith came from humble beginnings with two school teachers as parents, and a household that loved basketball. In 1953, Smith graduated from the University of Kansas with a communications degree and experience as a member of the Jayhawks men’s basketball team. Smith was an assistant at Kansas before eventually leaving for Chapel Hill in 1958.  Smith not only cared about results on the court, he was a champion for civil rights, integrating UNC’s basketball program by awarding Charlie Scott the first scholarship for a black player in 1966. He also was instrumental in helping UNC grad student Howard Lee purchase a home in an all-white neighborhood. Four years later, Lee became the Mayor.

Smith retired in 1997 after 36 years with the University of North Carolina. His legacy: won 879 games, two NCAA Titles, 11 Final Four appearances, plus a 1976 gold Olympic medal.

His coaching  innovations: the “Four Corner” offense, the “point-to-passer” acknowledgement of assists and of course, introducing us to Michael Jordan.

Under Smith’s leadership, UNC produced over 50 NBA players including Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Kenny Smith and others.  Smith’s winning record was recently usurped by Bob Knight in 2007 and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski who won his 1,000th win this year.

Smith is survived by his wife Linnea, daughters Sandy, Sharon, Kristen and Kelly; son Scott; and several grandchildren.


Michael Jordan on passing of Dean Smith:

“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith,” said Jordan in the prepared statement. “He was more than a coach — he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father.”

“Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for that. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”