“There’s no way you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith,” – Michael Jordan, Hall of Fame Induction speech, 2009.
Legendary North Carolina Tar Heels basketball coach Dean Smith, the man who recruited and taught basketball legend Michael Jordan, has passed away at age 83.
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The University of North Carolina confirmed Smith’s passing yesterday. According to the New York Times, Smith had been battling a neurological disorder affecting his memory since July 2010.
The coach of the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, Smith turned the Tar Heels into one of the premier college basketball powerhouses for the better part of several decades and brought 25 future NBA 1st-round picks into the fold, such as Vince Carter, Larry Brown and Rasheed Wallace. But most notably, Smith was the man who turned Michael Jordan into one of the top NBA prospects coming out of college.
Smith gained the admiration of many of his players, Jordan especially. At Jordan’s Hall of Fame induction in 2009, Jordan said of Smith, “There’s no way you guys would have got a chance to see Michael Jordan play without Dean Smith.”
Smith led the Tar Heels to two National Championships in 1982 and 1993. He coached the United States Olympic Basketball team in 1976 and took the Gold Medal. He also led the Tar Heels to 11 Final Four appearances.
Smith’s 879 college coaching victories are 4th in NCAAB history behind only Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, and Jim Boeheim. He was a four-time National Coach of the Year in 1977, ’79, ’82 and ’93. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983, and was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
On November 20, 2013, President Barack Obama awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom.