President Barack Obama among those expressing sorrow at death of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith

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Monday, February 9, 2015
Dean Smith
Former UNC men's basketball coach Dean Smith died Saturday night. He was 83.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- There has been an outpouring of reaction to the death Sunday of legendary UNC coach Dean Smith, including President Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, Duke University head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, North Carolina politicians, and sports figures all across.

"Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. 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 in a released statement.

"My heart goes out to Linnea and their kids. We've lost a great man who had an incredible impact on his players, his staff and the entire UNC family."

Krzyzewski said in a released statement:

"I am incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Dean Smith. We have lost a man who cannot be replaced. He was one of a kind and the sport of basketball lost one of its true pillars. Dean possessed one of the greatest basketball minds, and was a magnificent teacher and tactician. While building an elite program at North Carolina, he was clearly ahead of his time in dealing with social issues. However, his greatest gift was his unique ability to teach what it takes to become a good man. That was easy for him to do because he was a great man himself. All of his players benefited greatly from his basketball teachings, but even more from his ability to help mold men of integrity, honor and purpose. Those teachings, specifically, will live forever in those he touched. We offer our deepest sympathies -- and gratitude for sharing his incredible life with us for so long -- to Linnea, his children and the entire North Carolina family."

Former UNC player and LA Lakers Assistant Coach John Kuester sat down with ABC11's Steve Daniels to reflect on his memories of Dean Smith.

Here were some other reactions:

President Barack Obama

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.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford

We've known for a while this day would come, but it still hits hard.

Sometimes we are blessed to be around certain people in our lives. For me, one of those people was Dean Smith. For 21 years I had the privilege of working with him.

He personified excellence day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out. The remarkable number of wins is well chronicled, but most importantly those wins came while teaching and living the right values. He won, his players graduated and he played by the rules. He was first and foremost a teacher, and his players were always the most important part of his agenda.

His impact on the University of North Carolina, the Atlantic Coast Conference, college basketball and the sport itself, is immeasurable. His leadership off the court in areas such as race relations and education were less chronicled, but just as important.

Sometimes the word legend is used with too little thought. In this instance, it almost seems inadequate. He was basketball royalty, and we have lost one of the greats in Dean Smith.

Gov. Pat McCrory

Ann and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Smith. Coach Smith is a legend on and off the court and his life will leave a lasting legacy at Chapel Hill and across the state and nation. May the skies shine Carolina Blue in your honor Coach.

Senator Thom Tillis

Today, the state of North Carolina sadly lost one of its most influential figures, Dean Smith, who leaves behind an incredible legacy. Coach Smith's leadership as the head coach of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill basketball team was legendary, and his role as a teacher and mentor will continue to make a profound impact on many lives for years to come.

Senator Richard Burr

Dean Smith's accomplishments as coach, mentor, and teacher made him a legend in our state, and far beyond Tobacco Road. Brooke and I are deeply saddened to hear of his passing, but he left his indelible mark on this state. Under his stewardship, UNC became the formidable college basketball powerhouse that it is today. While he was a winning coach, he also encouraged his players to excel in the classroom and taught well beyond the locker room. He and his family are in my prayers today.

Congressman David E. Price

North Carolina lost one of its most accomplished and admirable citizens yesterday. Dean Smith will long be remembered for his historic successes as coach of the Tar Heels, for the genius and also the integrity he brought to college basketball. He was also a powerful force for good in the community, working actively and courageously for civil rights and equal justice throughout his life.

I have known Dean since my student days, when he was a beginning coach and an active member of Binkley Baptist Church, a fledgling congregation focused on social justice. I was honored to join his family at the White House in 2013,when he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The intervening years mark a remarkable career, a life well-lived, and thousands of lives positively shaped and influenced.

Click here for more Twitter tributes.

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