In his 83 years on Earth, Dean Smith impacted thousands of people in a variety of ways. In the two days following his death, the legacy he leaves behind may be best reflected by the stories that fellow coaches, former players and fans across the country have been sharing.
Included among those weighing in is President Barack Obama. On Monday, Obama joined The David Glenn Show to discuss the life of the UNC legend. The president stated that Smith’s integrity was one quality that stood out the most.
“Dean Smith will go down as one of the greatest coaches in sports, period,” Obama said. “Precisely because he did it the right way.”
Through conversations with former UNC players, Obama gained an understanding of Smith’s coaching style.
[callout2]“He was trying to just get them to be the best players they could be and the best people they could be,” the president said. “That’s a good lesson for all of us at a time when people think that cutting corners is what’s required to get ahead. My experience tells me that’s not the case. You can do it the right way, and ultimately that kind of success is going to be more long-lasting.”[/callout2]
In 2013, Smith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the nation’s highest civilian honor.
“It wasn’t just his excellence on the court,” Obama stated. “It wasn’t just the championships he won and the incredible record of wins and the innovations that he developed on the court. It was how his character showed off the court as well.”
Outside of basketball, Smith was known for helping integrate North Carolina. In the ‘60s, he recruited Charlie Scott, the first African-American scholarship athlete in the school’s history. Before that, he took an African-American theology student to The Pines, a Chapel Hill restaurant. From that point on, The Pines was no longer segregated.
In addition to what Smith did off the court, Obama says the innovations he brought to the game were important as well.
“The idea of acknowledging the passer, the idea of huddling at the free throw line, those may seem like routine habits now, but that wasn’t always the case,” Obama said. “The imprint that he placed on the culture of the game and teaching folks how to play like a team, that still reflects itself in some of the best basketball around.”
During the conversation, the president also talked about Michael Jordan’s golf game and his relationship with former Duke player Reggie Love. Click below to hear the full interview: