UNC Basketball Coach Dean Smith Dead at 83

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University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, often considered among the most successful athletic coaches of all time, died Saturday evening at 83, according to UNC.

Smith’s family confirmed the death in a statement and thanked the public for thoughts and prayers.

“It’s such a great loss for North Carolina – our state, the University, of course the Tar Heel basketball program, but really the entire basketball world,” said current UNC coach Roy Williams in a statement. “We lost one of our greatest ambassadors for college basketball for the way in which a program should be run.”

Smith coached at the school for 36 seasons, from 1961 to 1997, and retired with more wins than any other college basketball coach. The team won two national championships and made 11 Final Four appearances during his tenure. ESPN named him one of the seven greatest coaches of any sport in the 2oth century.

In an obituary posted at Sports Illustrated, Alexander Wolff recalled what made Smith a unique figure in the college basketball environment:

He didn’t need to put any game face on; he wore the same face, game or no game. Almost alone among coaches I’ve known, Smith actually preferred to speak to the press in the hours before tip-off. And if that game turned out to be a loss, he got over it quickly — in part because for every loss he could point to roughly three-and-a-half victories (879 all told), but also because he truly understood that a billion people in China didn’t give a damn.

During the back half of Smith’s career men’s college basketball spawned a generation of coaches who regarded the university — with its classes and standards, with its women’s teams clamoring for resources and practice time — as irritations, barriers to their entrepreneurial striving. So they tried to set their programs apart and reserve for themselves the spoils of shoe and camp and TV deals. Smith believed that every dime his team delivered to Chapel Hill belonged to the athletic department. He didn’t begrudge the women’s soccer program spending Tar Heels basketball booty; he gloried in it.

Read more at Sports Illustrated

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Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com