UNC icon Dean Smith dies at 83

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When he retired, Dean Smith was college hoops' all-time leader in victories. (Getty Images)
When he retired, Dean Smith was college hoops’ all-time leader in victories. (Getty Images)

Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith died Saturday night.

UNC announced the passing Sunday morning.

Smith was 83 years old.

“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.”

Smith career highlights
Category Stat
Won-loss mark 879-254 (1961-97)
Record No. 1 in wins upon retirement
National titles 2 (1982, 1993)
ACC tourney wins 13 titles
Final Fours 11 appearances
Olympics Coached ’76 gold-medal team
20 wins 27 straight seasons

Smith coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997 and retired as Division I’s winningest coach. He led UNC to 11 Final Fours and two national championships. He also won 11 ACC Tournament titles and coached the United States to a gold medal in the 1976 Olympics.

Smith hadn’t made a public appearance in years while suffering from an undisclosed condition that caused him to lose his memory. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2013 but did not attend the ceremony.

“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.”

Smith compiled an 879-254 record at UNC while leading the Tar Heels to the Final Four in four of his final seven seasons. He won at least 20 games for 27 consecutive years, which is a Division I record. The Kansas native and KU graduate is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the FIBA Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame.

Michael Jordan, Phil Ford and James Worthy are among the greats who played for Smith. He retired on Oct. 9, 1997 and was replaced by longtime assistant Bill Guthridge.

“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.”

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