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Dean Smith, Legendary Coach, Dies At 83

Bo Gordy-Stith (PBoBS) / Flickr/Creative Commons

Dean Smith, the legendary men's college basketball coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has passed away. He was 83 years old.

"Coach Smith passed away peacefully the evening of February 7 at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children," his family said 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."

Smith spent 36 years as the head coach at UNC-Chapel Hill. During that span, he won 879 games. When he retired in 1997, that total was the most wins of any division one men’s college basketball coach in history.

During his tenure, the Tarheels went to 11 NCAA Final Fours and won two national championships, in 1982 and 1993.

Smith is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, helped desegregate the sport in the South, and was a champion of several causes off the court, including the abolition of the death penalty.

In 2013, President Barack Obama presented Smith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Tributes from fans and colleagues poured in Sunday, including:

Michael Jordan, the former NBA star and owner of the Charlotte Hornets who played for Smith: "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."

Dr. Lowry Caudill, chair, University of North Carolina Board of Trustees: "As the Carolina family grieves the magnitude of Coach Dean Smith’s loss, we can take comfort in considering the profound positive impact his words and deeds had across North Carolina and our nation. Coach Smith was always so much more than a brilliant basketball strategist. He was a father figure to his players, a loyal friend to his associates, a compassionate humanitarian who championed equality, and a strong advocate for the importance of education. He cared about others more than himself. He will forever be remembered as a giant in the history of our great University. We are grateful to his wife, Linnea, and his family for sharing him with all of us for so many years.”

For more on Smith’s life and legacy, go to this remembrance.

Dave DeWitt is WUNC's Feature News Editor. As an editor, reporter, and producer he's covered politics, environment, education, sports, and a wide range of other topics.