College basketball coaching legend Dean Smith dies

Dean Smith: 1931-2015. Photo By USA TODAY Sports

Former North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Dean Smith, who retired as college basketball’s winningest coach, died on Saturday. He was 83.

“Coach Dean Smith passed away peacefully … at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children,” the Smith family said in a statement. Smith kept out of the public eye in recent years with health issues that his family said caused him to lose his memory.

Smith coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, winning national championships in 1982 and 1993. He went 879-254 with at least 20 wins in an NCAA-record 27 consecutive seasons. He made 11 Final Fours and coached the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal in 1976.

“I’d like to say on behalf of all our players and coaches, past and present, that Dean Smith was the perfect picture of what a college basketball coach should have been,” said current Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, who served 10 years as an assistant to Smith. “We love him and we will miss him.”

Michael Jordan, who played for Smith at North Carolina also released a statement: “Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith,” Jordan said. “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. My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We’ve lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family.”