Dean Smith, who built the North Carolina basketball team into a national power in his 36 years at Chapel Hill and became one of the game's most respected figures for qualities that transcended the court, died Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C., at 83.
His family announced in July 2010 that he had a progressive neurological disorder affecting his memory.
"Our thoughts are with Coach Smith's family today," Florida coach Billy Donovan said in a statement. "He is a legend in the game of basketball, but more importantly he had a positive impact on the lives of the young men who played for him."
Dean Edwards Smith was born on Feb. 28, 1931, in Emporia, Kan., where his father, Alfred, was a teacher and the high school basketball coach, and his mother, Vesta, also taught. When Mr. Smith was 15, his family moved to Topeka. He played basketball, football and baseball in high school then received an academic scholarship to Kansas.
Mr. Smith was a 5-foot-10 substitute guard on the Kansas team coached by Phog Allen that won the 1952 NCAA championship, and he became immersed in a basketball heritage that stretched to James Naismith, the inventor of the game, who had coached Allen at Kansas.
After stints as an assistant coach at Kansas and Air Force, Mr. Smith was hired in 1958 as an assistant to Frank McGuire, who had taken North Carolina to an undefeated season and an NCAA championship in 1957. Mr. Smith succeeded McGuire when McGuire became the NBA Philadelphia Warriors' coach in 1961.
Mr. Smith inherited a program that was serving a year's NCAA probation for recruiting violations. His first team went 8-9. But he began to attract talented players, and in the late 1960s his teams went to the Final Four three consecutive times.
His first NCAA title came in 1982 when freshman Michael Jordan sank the winning basket in a 63-62 win over Georgetown. His second came in 1993, a 77-71 triumph over Michigan.
Some of his other career highlights:
• His 879 victories rank him No. 4 among major college basketball coaches.
• He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
• President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, in November 2013.
Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report.