By Anthony Caruso III on February 8, 2015, 11:41 AM EST
Last night, the college basketball world lost a legend. Former North Carolina men’s basketball coach Dean Smith passed away at the age of 83.
He took over the North Carolina program in 1961. During his long tenure, he took the Tar Heels to 11 Final Fours, 17 ACC regular-season titles, and two national championships.
In 36 years with the Tar Heels as their head coach, he had an 879-254 record (.776). He won the National Coach of the Year four times and the ACC Coach of the Year nine times.
He is also in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame (’81), Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (’96), National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (’06), Basketball Hall of Fame (’83), and the FIBA Hall of Fame (’07).
When he retired following the 1996-97 season, which included his last Final Four appearance, he was the Division 1 all-time leader with 879 wins. Now, his rival and Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski recently passed 1,000 wins.
“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,” the Smith 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.”
This is the second loss this year for the North Carolina family. In January, Stuart Scott, the former ESPN sports anchor, passed away from cancer.
As former Tar Heels and fans honor the legend, the ACC has released a statement. Commissioner John Swofford released this statement from Chief of External Affairs Amy Yakola.
“We’ve known for a while this day would come, but it still hits hard.
Sometimes we are blessed to be around certain people in our lives. For me, one of those people was Dean Smith. For 21 years I had the privilege of working with him.
He personified excellence day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. The remarkable number of wins is well chronicled, but most importantly those wins came while teaching and living the right values. He won, his players graduated and he played by the rules. He was first and foremost a teacher, and his players were always the most important part of his agenda.
His impact on the University of North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference, college basketball and the sport itself, is immeasurable. His leadership off the court in areas such as race relations and education were less chronicled, but just as important.
Sometimes the word legend is used with too little thought. In this instance, it almost seems inadequate. He was basketball royalty, and we have lost one of the greats in Dean Smith.”