Emporia native, coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83 - KCTV5

Emporia native, coaching great Dean Smith dies at 83

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Former North Carolina player Michael Jordan, left, gives his former coach Dean Smith a kiss during halftime of a college basketball in Chapel Hill, N.C., Feb. 10, 2007. Jordan was a member of the 1982 team. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Former North Carolina player Michael Jordan, left, gives his former coach Dean Smith a kiss during halftime of a college basketball in Chapel Hill, N.C., Feb. 10, 2007. Jordan was a member of the 1982 team. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
EMPORIA, KS (KCTV/AP) -

Emporia, KS, native and former Kansas men's basketball player and college coaching legend Dean Smith has died. He was 83.

Smith's family said the former North Carolina basketball coaching great, who won two national championships, died at his home Saturday night. He was with his wife and five children.

Smith had health issues in recent years, with the family saying in 2010 he had a condition that was causing him to lose his memory.

Smith coached the Tar Heels from 1961-97. He retired as the winningest coach in the sport with 879 victories. He won NCAA titles in 1982 and 1993, and coached such players as Michael Jordan and James Worthy.

He reached 11 Final Fours, won 13 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles and coached the U.S. Olympic team to the gold medal in 1976.

ESPN's SportsCentury program selected Smith as one of the seven greatest coaches of the 20th Century with Red Auerbach, Bear Bryant, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, John McGraw and John Wooden.

Smith was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1983 and is also a member of the the FIBA Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the College Basketball Hall of Fame. 

In 2006, he was named to the inaugural class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame along with James Naismith, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell and John Wooden.

Born Feb. 28, 1931, in Emporia, Smith graduated from Topeka High School in 1949 and went to the University of Kansas on an academic scholarship. 

"Coach Smith was a Kansan, growing up in Topeka, and part of the 1952 national championship team at Kansas. He carries great weight around here now and all the way back to his days here as a lot of his teammates are still here in town and think the world of him," current Kansas head coach Bill Self said.

Smith was an assistant coach at Kansas to Phog Allen and Dick Harp, and served in the U.S. Air Force as a lieutenant. While in the service, he played and coached basketball in Germany.

As a student-athlete at Kansas, Smith knew he would become a coach someday. KU All-American Clyde Lovellette said he would work closely with then-assistant coach Harp on scouting Jayhawk opponents to contribute prepping the team for upcoming games.

"I thought of Dean as a man who wanted to know how to coach basketball," Lovellette said. "As a player, he would take the team we were going to play and run the plays against us. He was very involved in the structure and the play the other teams to use us to combat what they were going to throw against us. He was a statistician. (Former Kansas head coach) Dick Harp and Dean worked very close together. Dick felt very comfortable about turning the other team against us. Dean was a great ball player. He really enjoyed basketball and I knew down the road that Dean was going to do well."

Self said there have been huge pillars in his profession through the years, but Smith was one of the "most classy and innovative coaches that our sport has ever known."

Self said the passing of Smith is a huge loss to not only the basketball world, college game and the fans that follow it but to society in general. 

"Because he was an innovator and certainly set an example for people to follow not just as players, but for the people that he touched directly and indirectly. It's a sad day," he said.

Smith is one of only two men to both play on and coach an NCAA championship team. Smith was also a member of the Jayhawk squad that won college basketball's top prize in 1952. Bob Knight is the other person to accomplish the feat.

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