• Smith’s teams were also the dominant force in the ACC. The Tar Heels under Smith had a record of 364-136 in ACC regular-season play, a winning percentage of .728.

• The Tar Heels finished at least third in the ACC regular-season standings for 33 successive seasons. In that span, Carolina finished first 17 times, second 11 times and third five times.

• Carolina won 13 ACC Tournaments under Smith.

• His teams played in 11 Final Fours.

• Smith’s teams made 23 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament. 

• In his last 31 years, Smith led the Tar Heels into the NCAA Tournament 27 times.

• Carolina reached the Sweet 16 of NCAA play each season from 1981-93. That 13-year streak is the second longest in Tournament history to a 14-year stretch by UCLA from 1967 to 1980.

• More than 95 percent of Carolina basketball lettermen earned their degree.


“Coach Smith set a standard of excellence on and off the court by which coaches and athletic departments have modeled themselves for decades,” says Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “The Presidential Medal of Freedom is a rich reward for someone who put teaching young people the game of life as important as the sport of basketball. On behalf of the University of North Carolina I wish to congratulate Coach Smith and his family and express our appreciation to President Obama for recognizing Coach Smith with such a prestigious award.”


Born February 28, 1931, in Emporia, Kan., Dean Edwards Smith grew up as the son of public school teachers. He graduated from Topeka High School in 1949 and went to the University of Kansas on an academic scholarship. He played varsity basketball and baseball and freshman football for the Jayhawks. He was a member of Jayhawk basketball teams that won the NCAA title in 1952 and finished second in 1953.


Smith was an assistant coach at Kansas to Phog Allen and Dick Harp, then served in the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant. Smith served for three years as an assistant basketball coach under Bob Spear at the United States Air Force Academy. In 1958, Frank McGuire asked him to join his staff at Carolina as an assistant coach. Smith served as an assistant under McGuire for three years before McGuire resigned to become head coach of the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors in the summer of 1961. At that time, Carolina Chancellor William Aycock tapped the 30-year-old Smith to become UNC’s head coach.


The White House will announce the date of the medal ceremony, which will be held in Washington, D.C., at a later date.