[caption id="attachment_40296" align="alignleft" width="210"] Michael Jordan and Dean Smith[/caption]
Legendary University of North Carolina men's basketball coach Dean Smith has passed away at the age of 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.
"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," the Smith family said in a statement.
Current North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said Smith "was the greatest there ever was on the court but far, far better off the court with people." Williams spent 10 years as an assistant coach at North Carolina under Smith.
"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. We love him, and we will miss him."
"His concern for people will be the legacy I will remember most. 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," Williams said.
NBA and North Caolina great Michael Jordan said "other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith.
"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," Jordan said.
"We have lost a man who cannot be replaced. He was one of a kind, and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars. Dean possessed one of the greatest basketball minds and was a magnificent teacher and tactician. While building an elite program at North Carolina, he was clearly ahead of his time in dealing with social issues.
"However, his greatest gift was his unique ability to teach what it takes to become a good man. That was easy for him to do because he was a great man himself. All of his players benefited greatly from his basketball teachings, but even more from his ability to help mold men of integrity, honor and purpose.
"Those teachings, specifically, will live forever in those he touched," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Smith was the head coach of the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, retiring as the winningest coach in college basketball. He led the Tar Heels to national championships in 1982 and 1993, to 13 ACC Tournament titles, 11 Final Fours, and an NIT championship, and directed the United States Olympic Team to a gold medal at the 1976 Summer Games.
In 36 seasons at UNC, Smith’s teams had a record of 879-254. He set the record for winning more games than any Division I men’s coach in history, surpassing Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp with his 877th victory over Colorado in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. He finished his career by leading UNC to the Final Four in four of his final seven seasons.
Under Smith, the Tar Heels won at least 20 games for 27 straight years and 30 of his final 31. No coach in history had ever produced that many consecutive 20-win seasons.
Carolina was ranked in the final Top 10 of both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls each year from 1981-89. Smith’s teams finished the season ranked No. 1 in at least one of the two major polls four times (1982, 1984, 1993 and 1994).
His teams played in 11 Final Fours, second in number only to Wooden, who had 12. Smith’s teams made 23 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. In his last 31 years, Smith led the Tar Heels into the NCAA Tournament 27 times. Carolina reached the Sweet 16 of NCAA play each season from 1981-93. That 13-year streak is the second-longest in Tournament history to a 14-year stretch by UCLA from 1967 to 1980.
Smith coached student-athletes who went on to become doctors, lawyers and businessmen. Better than 95 percent of his lettermen earned their degrees. This is Smith's greatest legacy as the head coach at North Carolina.
Dean Smith was all that is good in sports. Even when big money and corporate sponsorship invaded the college game, Smith never wavered from the principles that guided his life: family, school, team individual players. With his passing, so passes an era that we will not see the likes of again.