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.

Newest First
View all
  • heelsrule Aug 8, 2:20 p.m.

    Well deserved!

  • duane11 Aug 8, 2:20 p.m.

    congratulations to the Coach, job well done!

  • Warren G. is back again Aug 8, 2:21 p.m.

    Congratulations, Coach!

  • 903 PJ suspended til NCAA clears Aug 8, 2:25 p.m.

    A great honor for a great man...

  • Hokies94 Aug 8, 2:40 p.m.

    Happy to read this one. Dean Smith has always been my favorite coach in basketball. Well deserved honor. Wishing coach the very best in health and long life.

  • totallybogusdude Aug 8, 2:41 p.m.

    Congratulations Coach Smith! Sometimes Washington gets right!

  • itsnotmeiswear Aug 8, 2:44 p.m.

    Congrats and well deserved.

  • why not Aug 8, 2:48 p.m.

    Very well deserved. Never have been a UNC fan but always respected Coach Smith and the way he conducted his program. He was a class act. I just can't help but wonder if his health is really failing now and this was being done before it was too late.

  • dwntwnboy2 Aug 8, 2:54 p.m.

    Love or hate UNC all you want, but Dean Smith is a class act all the way. He is what people should strive to be- mentors to others and an asset to their community. NC and UNC are better places because of him. Until the day he retired, from birth, I had never known another coach at UNC- it was a sad day to see him walk off the court the last time, but at least I can say I saw him coach, met the man in person and can only hope to be as nice a person and an influence on others as he is and has been.

  • kmorcomeback2 Aug 8, 3:00 p.m.

    Cool Story!!

More...

 

 

  • CBB: North Carolina vs. Ohio State

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • CBB: UCLA vs Kentucky

    Tomorrow at 3:30 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: San Diego at San Francisco

    Tomorrow at 8:25 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Panthers vs. Cleveland

    Monday at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • WBB: Duke vs. UMass Lowell

    Tonight at 6:30 on 620am

  • NFL: Philadelphia at Washington

    Tomorrow at 4:25 pm on 620am

Scoreboard
Local
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
Final
CHI 103
NYK 97
Final
HOU 90
NOP 99
Final
SAC 107
MIL 108
Final
GSW 114
OKC 109
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
CHA
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
UTA
7:30pm Tonight
CLE
BRK
7:30pm Tonight
BOS
MIN
7:30pm Tonight
DET
TOR
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
WAS
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
CHI
8:00pm Tonight
SAN
POR
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
LAC
10:30pm Tonight
LAL
OKC
Final
RICE 72
STTHOMASTX 61
 
Final
UVA 70
CLST 54
Final
LIU 69
FIU 58
 
Final
STET 67
GSOUT 76
 
Final
QUIN 80
LEH 65
 
Final
SFLA 69
SHU 89
Final
RICH 65
SALA 54
Final
CAN 60
USB 59
 
Final
DEL 62
TEMPL 82
Final
WCU 56
WRST 69
 
Final
VERM 56
YALE 57
 
Final
SDKST 75
IDST 72
 
Final
RIDE 62
MRGST 48
 
Final
LATU 79
NICST 54
 
Final
CHAR 75
APP 65
Final
MISS 71
CCAR 68
 
Final
DUKE 66
UCONN 56
Final
BRAD 80
EUREK 38
 
Final
PEAY 76
OAKC 52
 
Final
JST 66
SMISS 46
 
Final
SD 55
MNTST 53
 
Final
UAB 70
LSU 79
Final
EVAN 81
OHIO 69
 
Final
CSFU 72
CSDH 50
 
Final
ORST 90
DEP 59
Final
PAC 69
NEV 65
Final
USF 77
PORST 40
 
Final
IDAHO 86
WALLA 39
 
Final
UTST 57
CALST 56
 
1:30pm Today
YOUNG
WILB
 
2:00pm Today
TULA
JST
 
6:00pm Tonight
RAD
SIENA
 
7:00pm Tonight
MERC
COOK
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
CASEWEST
 
7:00pm Tonight
LIB
CPNC
 
7:00pm Tonight
SCAR
CLEM
7:00pm Tonight
CMICH
CONC
 
7:00pm Tonight
MIAMI
EKENT
7:00pm Tonight
GWEBB
HIWASSEE
 
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
MDES
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUF
NIAG
 
7:00pm Tonight
KSU
NCAT
 
7:00pm Tonight
FAM
UNF
 
7:00pm Tonight
NORST
NARZ
 
7:00pm Tonight
DART
NILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
MORE
NKENTUCKY
 
7:00pm Tonight
UCSB
SDCHR
 
7:00pm Tonight
STJ
GAELS
7:00pm Tonight
ALA
STILL
 
7:00pm Tonight
HAMP
TENST
 
7:00pm Tonight
TENN
TENT
7:00pm Tonight
WMARY
WSHMD
 
7:30pm Tonight
FLGC
FUR
 
7:30pm Tonight
CALST
SDKST
 
8:00pm Tonight
MTST
CHAT
8:00pm Tonight
NDAK
DICKINSON
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAMON
LSUALEX
 
8:00pm Tonight
PRIN
LIP
 
8:00pm Tonight
LAM
MLGN
 
8:00pm Tonight
MINN
SEAT
 
8:00pm Tonight
LOYC
SUTAH
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
WINT
 
8:05pm Tonight
SILL
NO
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
ALAAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
TTU
ARKPB
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
COLST
9:00pm Tonight
CREI
TXPA
 
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EWASH
10:05pm Tonight
UTST
IDST
 
11:00pm Tonight
UTEP
ARZ
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
PIT 1
COL 0
Final
PHI 1
FLA 2
Final
CAR 4
TOR 1
Final
CLB 4
WAS 5
Final
MON 1
ANA 2
Final
SJS 4
EDM 3
Final
LOS 6
STL 4
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
TAM
 
7:30pm Tonight
OTT
ANA
 
7:30pm Tonight
DET
NYI
8:00pm Tonight
WIN
BOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
CAL
DAL
 
Final
JAC 21
TEN 13