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North Carolina

Dean Smith will not attend Medal of Freedom ceremony

Posted November 14, 2013

North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith will not attend the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House next week, according to UNC team spokesman Steve Kirschner.

It was in 2010 that the family revealed that Smith is suffering from a "progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory." Due to his health Smith is unable to make the trip Nov. 20.

Smith, who led the Tar Heels to two national championships and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, will be represented by his wife Dr. Linnea Smith, his children, long-time coaching assistant, Bill Guthridge, and current UNC coach Roy Williams.

"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.

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.

17 Comments

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  • 4tarheels Nov 14, 4:00 p.m.

    Dean Smith is a great man,well deserved, just sad that he is deteriorating like this.

  • heelgrad1978 Nov 14, 4:20 p.m.

    Bless your heart Dean. I enjoyed watching you when i was at school.

  • The Heels Win Again Nov 14, 4:53 p.m.

    So sad. I enjoyed talking with him, over the years. He always had a smile on his face.

  • DurhamDevil Nov 14, 5:34 p.m.

    It is sad that someone so deserving is unable to attend this ceremony.

    Growing up in Durham and in the heart of ACC basketball territory, I truly appreciate all that Dean Smith did to elevate the game of college basketball. Clearly, the ACC would not be what it is today without him.

    Best of luck to Coach Smith and his family.

  • ncstateforever Nov 14, 6:00 p.m.

    Happy to see Coach Smith honored, but sad to see him with the illness he has. I saw his wife in an interview on channel 17 and she was very thankful for all the support for Coach Smith. I hope he can live out the rest of his life in a peaceful manner.

  • DukeDan Nov 14, 6:36 p.m.

    I'm sorry Coach Smith will not be able to attend. A very deserving honor for a great coach and a good man. Best of luck to you and your family from this Dukie!

  • stomponurlogo Nov 14, 8:05 p.m.

    Bless your heart Dean. I enjoyed watching you when i was at school.

    — Posted by heelgrad1978

    sAnd what school was that? (eyeroll.)

    Anyway...

    I'm glad someone hasn't decided it would be a good idea to just wheel Dean out there and prop him up for the cameras. They can put his revered image(s) on the gigantic displays and let the crowd give a standing ovation for him, which they certainly will.

    I'd love to see Roy, Guthridge and Doherty (and Linnea of corse) all accept for him.

    Dignified.

    The Carolina Way.

  • Gunnstigator Nov 14, 9:19 p.m.

    This is bittersweet: Coach Smith is very deserving of this award, yet his health won't allow him to accept the award. I'm glad Roy, Coach Gutt, and Dean's wife can accept the award for him.

    I'm impressed with the thoughtful posts here (so far).

  • iron fist Nov 15, 6:34 a.m.

    God bless you Coach Smith

  • BlueDevils00 Nov 15, 7:25 a.m.

    Bless your heart Dean. I enjoyed watching you when i was at school.

    — Posted by heelgrad1978

    sAnd what school was that? (eyeroll.)

    Anyway...

    I'm glad someone hasn't decided it would be a good... View More

    — Posted by stomponurlogo

    "The Carolina Way"..... lol

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