Dean Smith, one of the winning-est coaches in the history of NCAA basketball passed away on Sunday morning. The former North Carolina head coach and beloved icon was 83.
According to CBS News, Dean Smith died rather peacefully with his wife of 61 years and their five children surrounding him. Dean Smith had been having some serious health problems over the last few months, and his passing was not completely unexpected.. Still, the loss of Dean Smith is a loss the college basketball world will be feeling for quite some time. It was his success at North Carolina that helped turn the sport into one of the most popular in the world.
Yahoo Sports reports that the school released a statement about Dean Smith’s passing, “It’s such a great loss for North Carolina – our state, the University, of course the Tar Heel basketball program, but really the entire basketball world,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams, a longtime assistant under Smith. “We lost one of our greatest ambassadors for college basketball for the way in which a program should be run. We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so many things off the court to help make the world a better place to live in.”
While Dean Smith’s long time rivalry with Duke and North Carolina State made him quite hated during his coaching days, that hatred long ago turned to admiration. One particular NC State fan even wrote a touching column about Dean Smith in the school’s newspaper. Dean Smith was also one of those coaches who had enjoyed one of the longest careers of any coaches in NCAA basketball.
The man, who coached stars such as Michael Jordan, was the head coach at North Carolina from 1961 until his retirement in 1997. When he retired, he was actually the winning-est coach in the sport, but since he retired, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, and Bob Knight have since passed him in win totals. Finishing with 879 wins, the coach won 20 or more games in 30 of the 31 seasons and took the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours, and two national titles. The first of his national titles came in 1982 with Michael Jordan playing on the team. His second came just four years before he retired in 1993.
Once a man who loved being among his many fans and admirers, the former coach has made fewer and fewer public appearances because of his fading health. First made public by his family in 2010, a “progressive neurocognitive disorder” had reportedly sapped a sharp memory. Now Dean Smith can rest as the rest of the college basketball world mourns. And lest we forget, perhaps Dean Smith’s greatest accomplishment as a coach is the fact that 99.6 percent of his players graduated with a college degree.
[Image Via Fox23.com]