The University of North Carolina announced the passing of Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame head coach Dean Smith on Sunday morning.
The legendary head coach of the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997, Smith retired as college basketball’s all-time wins leader. He led the Tar Heels to national championships in 1982 and 1993 and made 11 Final Four appearances.
“Coach Dean Smith passed away peacefully the evening of February 7 at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children,” Smith’s family said in a statement. “We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as arrangements are made available to the public. Thank you.”
Smith had a career record of 879-254 and set the Division I men’s basketball wins mark by surpassing Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp with his 877th victory over Colorado in the 1997 NCAA Tournament. Also the winner of 13 ACC championships and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1976, Smith won at least 20 games in a season a remarkable 30 times in his final 31 seasons, including a record 27 consecutive 20-win seasons.
While Smith is often celebrated for his coaching career, he also played college basketball and baseball at Kansas and was also a member of the freshman football team. Smith won a basketball national championship as a player at Kansas in 1952 and is one of only three men to win a college basketball national championship as a player and head coach.
Smith began his coaching career as an assistant coach at Kansas under Phog Allen and Dick Harp before serving in the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant. In the service, Smith coached and played basketball in Germany — while also coaching golf — and served as an assistant coach under Bob Spear at the United States Air Force Academy for three years.
In 1958, Smith went to North Carolina as an assistant coach under Frank McGuire. After three years, Smith became the head coach of the Tar Heels after McGuire became head coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors.
Also noted for his legendary coaching tree, Smith helped mold many former assistant coaches and players into successful head coaches, including Larry Brown, Roy Williams, Eddie Fogler, Billy Cunningham, George Karl and Doug Moe — among many others.