The college basketball world lost a legend on Saturday as former North Carolina head coach Dean Smith passed away at the age of 83.  "Coach Dean Smith passed away peacefully the evening of February 7 at his home in Chapel Hill, and surrounded by his wife and five children," the Smith family said in a statement issued by the university. "We are grateful for all the thoughts and prayers, and appreciate the continued respect for our privacy as arrangements are made available to the public. Thank you."

Doug Pensinger, Gettys Images
Doug Pensinger, Gettys Images

Taking over a struggling North Carolina program in 1961, coach Smith began what is easily considered as one of the greatest coaching runs in sports history.  He led the Tar Heels to 11 Final Four appearances along with 17 ACC regular-season titles and two national championships.  When Smith retired following the 1996-97 season—a campaign that included his last Final Four appearance—he was the Division I all-time leader in wins with 879 under his belt.

During his tenure, North Carolina became known for on-court excellence and producing some of the most iconic talents of the 21st century.  Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Vince Carter and a number of others all owe a piece of their storied careers to Dean Smith.  You can see Michael Jordan’s statement on the passing of the legendary coach if you follow the link at the top of the article.

Smith had been in deteriorating health for more than a year, most notably suffering from dementia.  As noted in a Washington Post story by John Feinstein, Smith had begun showing the early signs nearly a decade ago, and his health slowly faded from there.  "Of all people, for it to happen to him is beyond cruel," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said last year, per Feinstein.  "You’re talking about the person who had the sharpest mind and the most remarkable memory of anyone I’ve ever met. It’s just not fair."

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