Dean Smith, who brought two NCAA basketball titles to the University of North Carolina and integration to the Atlantic Coast Conference and introduced Michael Jordan to the world, died late Saturday night at his Chapel Hill home. According to an announcement issued Sunday by the school, Smith "passed away peacefully" surrounded by his wife, Linnea, and five children. He was 83.
Smith retired in 1997 after 36 years as head coach of the Tar Heels after passing Kentucky's Adolph Rupp by three victories as the winningest Division I men's coach with a record of 879-254. His win total now ranks fourth. He also led the United States to an Olympic gold medal in 1976 and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983.
On the court, Smith was an innovator who is remembered for his "Four Corners" offense, which he used to take time off the clock when his team was in control. His legacy extended far beyond basketball, as the coach who recruited New York's Charles Scott to Chapel Hill, where he became the first African-American to play in the ACC, from 1967-70.
In recent years, Smith suffered from a condition the family said in 2010 was causing memory loss. When President Barack Obama awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, it was accepted by his wife.
Among the outpouring of praise for Smith upon his death was a statement from Obama, a Chicagoan who thanked him for sending Jordan to the city's Bulls and added: "More importantly, Coach Smith showed us something that I've seen again and again on the court -- that basketball can tell us a lot more about who you are than a jump shot alone ever could."
That theme, stressing the humanitarian values espoused by Smith, was echoed repeatedly by his former players, associates and fellow coaches.
Jordan said in a statement: "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."
Smith was born Feb. 28, 1931, in Emporia, Kansas. His parents were teachers, and his father, Alfred, coached the local high school basketball team, which included the first African-American player in Kansas state tournament history. Smith played basketball at Kansas under fabled coach Phog Allen, was a member of the 1952 NCAA champions and coached under Allen.
Smith later served three years as an assistant under Frank McGuire at North Carolina before succeeding him in 1961. His only losing season was his first one. Smith's program turned the corner when it reached the Final Four three straight seasons, from 1967-69.
Scott was on the second and third of those teams, but he said Smith never talked to him about breaking racial barriers during his recruitment.
"He knew it and I knew it, so it was something we did not have to bring up," Scott told Newsday. "The most important thing any individual in a racist society wants is to be treated like everybody else, and Coach Smith did that on a normal basis."
Smith's record included 13 ACC Tournament titles, 11 Final Four appearances, five championship game berths and titles in 1982 with Jordan over Georgetown and in 1993 over Michigan's "Fab Five."
Smith sent 50 players to the NBA, and his coaching tree includes two other Hall of Famers, Long Beach product Larry Brown and current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams.
"We lost a man of the highest integrity who did so many things off the court to make the world a better place to live in," Williams said in a statement. "Dean Smith was the perfect picture of what a college basketball coach should have been. We love him, and we will miss him."