banner
North Carolina

Dean Smith to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Posted August 8, 2013
Updated August 9, 2013

— Legendary University of North Carolina head basketball coach Dean Smith will be presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award later this year, the White House confirmed Thursday.

"This is an extraordinary honor," Smith’s family said in a statement. "We were touched by those who asked for the recognition and by the President’s decision to give an award to Dean for his work both on and off the court." 

Smith retired in 1997 as the all-time winningest coach in men’s college basketball history with 879 victories – all of them with UNC. He currently sits fourth on that list having been passed by Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Bobby Knight.

"I’m so proud of Coach Smith, happy for his family and friends and appreciative to President Obama for this just recognition," said current UNC head coach Roy Williams.

Football coach Larry Fedora said the honor is great news for UNC. Dean Smith UNC proud of Dean Smith's Medal of Freedom

"I can't imagine how he feels," he said. "What a tremendous thing for our university."

Smith won 13 ACC championships and two national championships with the Tar Heels and guided Team USA to an Olympic Gold Medal in 1976, but perhaps his more meritorious achievements came away from game action.

Smith was a key figure in advocating for civil rights and recruited the first African-American scholarship athlete, Charlie Scott, in UNC’s history. An outspoken Democrat, he also opposed the Vietnam War and the death penalty and endorsed President Barack Obama during his first presidential run in 2008.

UNC gave Smith the inaugural Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement for his contributions in "teaching beyond the classroom." He has been named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated, awarded two other honorary doctorates and presented with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY's.

The award is the highest civilian honor in the nation and, according to the White House, is given to individuals "who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

"As one of the greatest coaches of the 20th century, Dean Smith revolutionized the game of basketball and brought enormous pride to North Carolina during his 36 years leading the Tar Heels," said U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC). "But while he brought us glorious moments on the court, Dean Smith will forever be known for the sense of equality and justice that he instilled in his players and fought so hard to advance in basketball, in collegiate athletics and in the country as a whole.

“Dean Smith is known to all North Carolinians for his tremendous success as the coach of the Carolina men’s basketball team, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom recognizes that he has been far more than a coach to his players, his community, and his country," said Representative David Price (D-NC) in a statement. "Throughout his life, Coach Smith has shown courage and determination on some of the most pressing issues of our time, from working to end segregation in college athletics early in his career, to advocating for inclusion in church and community, to supporting equal rights for gay Americans."

It is not yet known if Smith will be in attendance for the ceremony. The 82-year old has been battling a progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory.

Obama will award 16 people with the honor this year including Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks. Other notables include former President Bill Clinton, country music singer Loretta Lynn, female astronaut Sally Ride and TV personality Oprah Winfrey.

"We know he would be humbled to be in the company of President Clinton, United States senators, scientists, entertainers, the great Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the other distinguished Americans who are receiving the award," Smith's family said. "We also know he would take this as an opportunity to recognize all the young men who played for him and the assistant coaches who worked with him, as well as the University. Again, this medal is a tremendous honor.”

Only 21 other individuals from the sports genre have been awarded the honor. They are: Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Earl Blaik, Paul Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King, Robert J.H. Kiphuth, Stan Musial, Jack Nicklaus, Buck O'Neil, Jesse Owens, Arnold Palmer, Richard Petty, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Pat Summitt, Ted Williams and John Wooden.

148 Comments

This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Aug 10, 6:29 a.m.

    Long live the Dean. One of the greatest ever.

    — Posted by Hokies94

    You've got to be pretty small minded not to give people the respect to have their own opinions,... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    Most people on here read that you like to be popular. The only female on here. I see your... View More

    — Posted by Hokies94

    Oh, HOkie, Hokie, Hokie, You can't help yourself, can you? You really need to stop posting after drinking. I know - it was only two "dismal beers".

    First of all, I NEVER called Dean a weasel, so get your facts straight. I think the world of Dean, and said so. I believe I said he was the best to coach the game. I respect other posters to have differing opinions from me, something you may want to practice.

    I post here like everyone else. I enjoy sports and sports talk.

    I've written numerous times I went to and graduated from college. It shouldn't matter, and it's really none of your business.

    It seems to really bother you that I'm a female. Get over it. And yourself.

    You've embarrassed yourself many times on here, and if you forget, just go back to those threads where basically everyone on here told you what they think of you, and it wasn't pretty. You may want to tone down your posts and lay off the adult beverages. Your posts are marginal when you're sober, but off the wall when you've had a few.

  • Hokies94 Aug 9, 9:10 p.m.

    That's funny as well. I met him at a Clemson game when I was 8 and asked him for an autograph.... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    Dean...choice words for an 8 year old...Really? Since you are the ONLY ONE I've heard from with... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    Dan Hunter. Cary NC. born in 1975. Phone number: 919-320-5938. Call me a liar to my face.

    — Posted by Barely

    You won't hear from him... Like all holes, he just talks a big game...

    — Posted by 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears

    How do you know this? Make your challenge big guy. He might shut you down too.

  • Hokies94 Aug 9, 9:02 p.m.

    Well, I met Dean twice, and both times he was a gentleman. Have friends that knew him way... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    That's funny as well. I met him at a Clemson game when I was 8 and asked him for an autograph.... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    Dean...choice words for an 8 year old...Really? Since you are the ONLY ONE I've heard from with... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    Dan Hunter. Cary NC. born in 1975. Phone number: 919-320-5938. Call me a liar to my face.

    — Posted by Barely

    I appreciate this one. I called out a few on here too.

  • Hokies94 Aug 9, 8:18 p.m.

    Long live the Dean. One of the greatest ever.

    — Posted by Hokies94

    You've got to be pretty small minded not to give people the respect to have their own opinions,... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    Most people on here read that you like to be popular. The only female on here. I see your postings, and you have a large fan base. Why in the heck don't you come out of retirement and coach? Oh. You have never worked as far as I can tell. Your thing yesterday when TBK stated that Dean was a weasel....and you pretty much went along with him. No courage. Nothing really. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.

    I have often wondered about your educational background. Any. Some. Tell us. Go UNC. After you agreed with tbk, most have some doubts. Respect. I earned this long before this Sportsfan was even created. My backgound in education is in tact. My VT stuff is real. Tell us where you have a degree. Go girl. Horse dung is the word. Funny how others see you. I have noticed of late that a few have put you in your place.

  • 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears Aug 9, 8:02 p.m.

    Well, I met Dean twice, and both times he was a gentleman. Have friends that knew him way... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    That's funny as well. I met him at a Clemson game when I was 8 and asked him for an autograph.... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    Dean...choice words for an 8 year old...Really? Since you are the ONLY ONE I've heard from with... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    Dan Hunter. Cary NC. born in 1975. Phone number: 919-320-5938. Call me a liar to my face.

    — Posted by Barely

    You won't hear from him... Like all holes, he just talks a big game...

  • Barely Aug 9, 7:30 p.m.

    That's funny. I seem to remember Dean being one of those card carriers too. Just because someone... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    Well, I met Dean twice, and both times he was a gentleman. Have friends that knew him way... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    That's funny as well. I met him at a Clemson game when I was 8 and asked him for an autograph.... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    Dean...choice words for an 8 year old...Really? Since you are the ONLY ONE I've heard from with... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    Dan Hunter. Cary NC. born in 1975. Phone number: 919-320-5938. Call me a liar to my face.

  • turnergil1 Aug 9, 5:14 p.m.

    Appears not everyone making comments are aware of what this award represents. Here are other sports figures that have won the award: Only 21 other individuals from the sports genre have been awarded the honor. They are: Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Earl Blaik, Paul Bryant, Roberto Clemente, Joe DiMaggio, Billie Jean King, Robert J.H. Kiphuth, Stan Musial, Jack Nicklaus, Buck O'Neil, Jesse Owens, Arnold Palmer, Richard Petty, Frank Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Pat Summitt, Ted Williams and John Wooden. Now you should all know its importance.

  • duane11 Aug 9, 4:34 p.m.

    Awesome....giving the award to someone that had the academic fraud scandal start back in their... View More

    — Posted by Steven

    How pathetic from a member of a fanbase that worships Jim Valvano, who basically ran a program... View More

    — Posted by Jewelry-EricLeak

    hey Tom, nice honor for Coach Smith...as for you, you looking forward to pounding the heels some... View More

    — Posted by duane11

    My new team hasn't had much luck against the Heels in the last couple of years, however, I'll... View More

    — Posted by Jewelry-EricLeak

    that's funny, i guess your memory is failing you in your old age, so maybe the pain of getting the ax last year isn't so bad...i'll refresh your memory, just 2 years ago was the famous unc dance-party game where NCSU punked the heels 13-0(that's right zero for the heels)...in addition to the unc dancers, the game included the KO of yul brenner and the complete shutdown of one Gio(savior) Bernard...now, thankfully, for heels fans, last year Gio was sprung by a missed block in the back to give the heels a nail-biting, hair-of-the-chinny-chin-chin win to finally stop the NCSU abuse you had heaped upon them as NCSU coach...now, as far, as you coaching against NCSU, the last game you coached for bc in The Carter resulted in a miracle comeback win for the Wolfpack, which prompted you to come to Raleigh and pound the heels, win some bowl games, and send various players to the nfl, including 2 qb's...I hope this will jog your memory of the last several years....on a side note, you don't play NCSU this year, so you will just have to settle for London-bridging the heels for the university of Virginia...GOOD LUCK!!

  • kmorcomeback2 Aug 9, 4:33 p.m.

    Yeah, and hopefully we will forget you are a card carrying A-Hole. Unless you've had a family... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    That's funny. I seem to remember Dean being one of those card carriers too. Just because someone... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    Well, I met Dean twice, and both times he was a gentleman. Have friends that knew him way... View More

    — Posted by Ramageddon

    That's funny as well. I met him at a Clemson game when I was 8 and asked him for an autograph.... View More

    — Posted by Barely

    wow, what a great man he was....**Roll Eyes**

  • joeBob Aug 9, 4:01 p.m.

    and then be canonized as the next pope and then on his way to sainthood.

More...

 

 

  • BIG 12: Oklahoma State at Baylor

    Tonight at 7:30 on FOX50

  • The Logan Zone

    Tomorrow at 11:30 am on WRAL-TV

  • NHL: Hurricanes at Colorado

    Tonight at 9:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • CBB: Duke vs. Stanford

    Tonight at 9:30 on 620am

Scoreboard
Local
4th
NCCU 21
NCA 14
 
Final
DAVID 72
UNC 90
 
1st
ECU 10
TULA 0
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
CAR
9:30pm Tonight
DUKE
STAN
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
MIA
7:00pm Tonight
IND
PHO
7:30pm Tonight
NYK
PHI
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
TOR
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
DAL
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
SAC
8:30pm Tonight
SAN
BRK
8:30pm Tonight
MIL
WAS
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
NOP
Final
UGA 55
CHSO 9
 
Final
UF 52
EKU 3
 
Final
OSU 42
IND 27
 
4th
OKLA 41
KU 7
 
Final
UAB 18
MARS 23
 
Final
NEB 24
MINN 28
 
Final
PURD 14
NW 38
 
Final
ILL 16
PSU 14
 
Final
MSU 45
RUTG 3
 
Final
UCF 53
SMU 7
 
Final
SCAR 37
SALABAMA 12
 
Final
WKENT 45
TXSANANTO 7
 
Final
WAKE 6
VT 3
 
1st OT
ODU 24
LATU 24
 
4th
ARST 38
WASU 24
 
4th
CMICH 20
WMICH 32
 
4th
COLST 58
NMU 13
 
3rd
LALAF 13
APPST 21
 
3rd
BST 35
EMICH 13
 
Final
HOU 38
TULSA 28
 
2nd
UTAH 0
ARZ 7
 
2nd
FSU 10
BC 3
 
2nd
UNT 14
FIU 7
 
2nd
CLEM 14
GASTATE 0
 
1st
ND 3
LOU 14
 
1st
MICH 3
MD 0
 
1st
ARK 10
MISS 0
 
2nd
PITT 7
SYR 0
 
1st
ISU 7
TTU 14
 
1st
ECU 10
TULA 0
 
2nd
IOWA 3
WISC 3
 
1st
MEM 0
SFLA 0
 
1st
CAL 0
STAN 7
 
1st
NMST 0
LAMON 0
 
1st
ALA 0
WCAR 7
 
4:30pm Today
OREG
COL
7:00pm Tonight
MTST
FATL
7:00pm Tonight
UVA
MIAMI
7:00pm Tonight
AUB
SAMF
7:30pm Tonight
TENN
MIZZ
7:30pm Tonight
BAY
OKST
7:30pm Tonight
MSST
VANDY
8:00pm Tonight
UCONN
CIN
8:00pm Tonight
UCLA
USC
10:15pm Tonight
WYO
BSU
10:30pm Tonight
NEV
FRES
10:30pm Tonight
WASH
ORST
11:00pm Tonight
HAW
UNLV
Final
PRIN 68
INCWORD 79
 
Final
UMASS 68
ND 81
 
Final
GEOR 80
RMU 66
 
Final
LAS 59
PETE 50
 
Final
VT 63
APP 65
 
Final
IUPUI 71
BST 69
 
Final
WMICH 91
DRAK 75
 
Final
RICH 80
HIGH 56
 
Final
MSST 71
UTST 63
 
Final
CAMP 48
COL 53
 
Final
DAVID 72
UNC 90
 
Final
NIOWA 66
UNF 49
 
Final
CSNO 79
SAMF 72
 
Final
YALE 61
MLOWELL 63
 
2nd
NEV 50
CLEM 58
 
2nd
PROV 60
FSU 39
 
2nd
MARQ 68
NEOM 80
 
2nd
DET 40
SALA 23
 
2nd
TXSA 49
TXST 48
 
Half
CHIST 45
TRINCHRIS 25
 
1st
UMO 13
LIB 11
 
1st
BONA 10
CAN 9
 
1st
SAV 8
CLST 8
 
1st
NW 9
ELON 9
 
1st
RFLSH 7
MDES 6
 
1st
CARK 7
SEMIZ 16
 
1st
AFA 11
WSCO 5
 
4:30pm Today
YOUNG
LONG
4:30pm Today
MTST
SOUTH
 
4:30pm Today
ARKLR
UMKC
5:00pm Tonight
ABCHRIST
DUQ
 
5:00pm Tonight
WEBER
LSU
5:00pm Tonight
BUT
GHND
 
5:00pm Tonight
CSFU
SJST
5:00pm Tonight
WOFF
SD
5:00pm Tonight
NORST
TXSOU
 
5:00pm Tonight
COOK
TOWS
5:00pm Tonight
SILL
YALE
5:30pm Tonight
KNST
ALCOR
 
5:30pm Tonight
MAN
BING
5:30pm Tonight
JVST
MILES
 
5:30pm Tonight
CSOU
WRST
 
6:00pm Tonight
CITA
BOBJONES
 
6:00pm Tonight
INDST
BRO
6:00pm Tonight
WYO
COL
6:00pm Tonight
GSOUT
FCCOL
 
6:00pm Tonight
CCAR
PIED
 
7:00pm Tonight
LATU
AMER
7:00pm Tonight
MAR
ARMY
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENT
CHAT
7:00pm Tonight
EKENT
CLERMONT
 
7:00pm Tonight
SMU
EWASH
7:00pm Tonight
NIAG
HART
 
7:00pm Tonight
PENN
LAF
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
MASTERS
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
MNTER
 
7:00pm Tonight
VMI
UNCW
7:00pm Tonight
RIU
NEB
7:00pm Tonight
NKENTUCKY
OHMWSTRN
 
7:00pm Tonight
GTDNS
QUIN
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAIR
SHSU
7:00pm Tonight
EMICH
UNCG
7:00pm Tonight
ETST
UNCA
 
7:00pm Tonight
TEMPL
UNLV
7:00pm Tonight
STJOE
VERM
 
7:30pm Tonight
MON
CCST
7:30pm Tonight
KSU
ILLCH
7:30pm Tonight
LIP
TRANSYLVAN
 
7:30pm Tonight
FUR
UCD
8:00pm Tonight
WKENT
BEL
8:00pm Tonight
NDST
HAMP
 
8:00pm Tonight
IND
LAM
 
8:00pm Tonight
TTU
MIZST
8:00pm Tonight
HOU
MRGST
 
8:00pm Tonight
NAVY
NE
8:00pm Tonight
ALAAM
OAKW
 
8:00pm Tonight
WILL
SELA
 
8:00pm Tonight
TULA
SONO
 
8:00pm Tonight
TXPA
A
 
8:00pm Tonight
RICE
WMARY
8:30pm Tonight
TXARL
HOUB
 
8:30pm Tonight
MINN
UMBC
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
NMST
 
9:00pm Tonight
GONZ
STTHOM
9:00pm Tonight
SUTAH
WLVRN
 
9:30pm Tonight
PBY
MORE
9:30pm Tonight
DUKE
STAN
10:00pm Tonight
WISC
BSU
10:00pm Tonight
PORT
SIUE
2nd
OTT 1
STL 2
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
BUF
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CLB
7:00pm Tonight
TOR
DET
7:00pm Tonight
TAM
MIN
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
MON
7:00pm Tonight
NYI
PIT
8:00pm Tonight
NAS
FLA
8:00pm Tonight
DAL
LOS
9:00pm Tonight
COL
CAR
10:00pm Tonight
EDM
CHI
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
NJD
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
ARI
4th
NCCU 21
NCA 14