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President Obama Leads Tributes To Late U.N.C. Coach Dean Smith

The former basketball coach for the University of North Carolina has died aged 83.

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Dean Smith, the man who coached the University of North Carolina's men's basketball team from 1961 to 1997, died late Saturday at the age of 83 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, his family said.

Smith, who steered the U.N.C. Tar Heels to national championships in 1982 and 1993, also coached the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in the Montreal 1976 Olympics.

"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 told U.N.C. 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 retired after 36 seasons at the university as the most successful coach in college basketball history.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Last night, America lost not just a coaching legend but a gentleman and a citizen. When he retired, Dean Smith had won more games than any other college basketball coach in history. He went to 11 Final Fours, won two national titles, and reared a generation of players who went on to even better things elsewhere, including a young man named Michael Jordan—and all of us from Chicago are thankful for that.But more importantly, Coach Smith showed us something that I've seen again and again on the court – that basketball can tell us a lot more about who you are than a jumpshot alone ever could. He graduated more than 96 percent of his players and taught his teams to point to the teammate who passed them the ball after a basket. He pushed forward the Civil Rights movement, recruiting the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helping to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill. And in his final years, Coach Smith showed us how to fight an illness with courage and dignity. For all of that, I couldn't have been prouder to honor Coach Smith with Medal of Freedom in 2013.Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to his wife Linnea, to his family, and to his fans all across North Carolina and the country.

"Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith," Jordan wrote. "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," Jordan said.

"We've lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff, and the entire U.N.C. family."

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory also paid tribute to Smith:

Facebook: GovernorPat

David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

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