Legendary Coach Dean Smith Dies

College basketball and North Carolina lost a legend.

College Basketball Today

It’s a very sad day in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and around the college basketball world as the revered and iconic former Tar Heels coach Dean Smith passed away “peacefully” in his sleep Saturday night.

Smith won two National Championships at North Carolina along with an Olympic gold medal in 1976, he was 83 years old. But more than those accomplishments, Smith made a tremendous impact on his players, the University of North Carolina and the overall scope of college athletics.

Roy Williams credits Dean Smith for his success. (AP)

Roy Williams credits Dean Smith for his success. (AP)

Roy Williams, the current North Carolina coach who spent 10 years as Smith’s assistant, said Smith “was the greatest there ever was on the court but far, far better off the court with people.”

“I’d like to say on behalf of all our players and coaches, past and present, that Dean Smith was the perfect picture of what a college basketball coach should have been,” Williams said in a statement. “We love him and we will miss him.”

“His concern for people will be the legacy I will remember most,” Williams said in his statement. “He was a mentor to so many people; he was my mentor. He gave me a chance but, more importantly, he shared with me his knowledge, which is the greatest gift you can give someone.

“I’m 64 years old and everything I do with our basketball program and the way I deal with the University is driven by my desire to make Coach Smith proud. When I came back to Carolina, the driving force was to make him proud and I still think that today.”

In his 36 years on the North Carolina bench, Smith had one losing season.

In his 36 years on the North Carolina bench, Smith had one losing season.

Smith began coaching the Tar Heels during the 1961-1962 season and retired following the 1996-1997 seasons. Over that span, the innovative coach suffered only a single losing season (his first one on the job) and he left the game having surpassed Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp as the winningest coach in college basketball history with 879 wins.

During his tenure in Chapel Hill Smith led the Tarheels to 11 Final Four appearances. Smith’s teams won 17 regular season ACC titles and 13 more ACC Tournament championships. Along the way Smith coached Michael Jordan, James Worthy and a host of some the best college basketball players of all-time. Smith’s commitment to coaching and education were evidenced by the fact that more than 95% of his lettermen graduated.

“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith,” Jordan said in a 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 it. 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.”

Rest in Peace Dean Smith and wear Carolina Blue forever.


To Top