Obama Honors Smith with Medal of Freedom

Obama Honors Smith with Medal of Freedom

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has honored retired North Carolina men's basketball coach Dean Smith with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, praising the Hall of Famer for a career full of wins on the court and societal change off it.

Smith was one of 16 recipients of the highest civilian honor for contributions to society. Smith was unable to attend Wednesday's ceremony at the White House due to health reasons. Obama presented the award to his wife, Dr. Linnea Smith.

Smith retired in 1997 after 36 seasons with the Tar Heels as the winningest coach in NCAA men's history with 879 wins. He won two national championships, reached 11 Final Fours, and won 13 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles. He led the U.S. men's team to gold in the 1976 Summer Olympics.

Obama said Smith's successes "go far beyond Xs and Os."

"While Coach Smith couldn't join us today due to an illness that he's facing with extraordinary courage, we also honor his courage in helping to change our country," Obama said. "He recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill. That's the kind of character that he represented on and off the court."

Smith, 82, has kept a low profile since his family revealed in 2010 that Smith had a "progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory."

Current UNC men's basketball coach Roy Williams, who spent 10 years as an assistant to Smith before taking over at Kansas, and longtime assistant Bill Guthridge also attended the ceremony.

Smith was honored alongside former President Bill Clinton and TV personality Oprah Winfrey on Wednesday. He joins UCLA's John Wooden as the second men's college basketball coach to receive the award, which was created five decades ago by President John F. Kennedy.

InsideCarolina.com Recommended Stories

  • Mack Hollins has a way, it seems, of getting people’s attention.

  • Inside Carolina takes an in-depth look at Virginia, as the Cavaliers will try to snap their four-game losing streak against UNC when the Coastal Division rivals take the Scott Stadium field on…

  • CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The running back talks about getting his first touchdown of the season and how the RB group has handled the adversity they've faced this season.

  • The Thursday night showdown between the Broncos and Chargers at Mile High Stadium (sponsorship withstanding) could see passing yardage a half mile long. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are at the top…

  • Every week, Fantasy Football Expert Rob Warner recommends a handful of players who should ride the pine. It may be because of a bad matchup, lost playing time, a nagging injury or an overwhelming…

Up Next


2,497 Fans online