The closing of an era: Former UNC coach dies at 83 after historic career in NCAA basketball

College basketball recently lost not only a coach, but a mentor for many great players.

Dean Smith, legendary former coach of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team, passed away Feb. 7 at the age of 83.

He is considered to be one of the most innovative and iconic coaches in NCAA history.

When Smith retired after the 1996-1997 season, he held the NCAA record for most wins in Division I history, with 879 wins.

Duke University’s Mike Krzyzewski is currently the NCAA Division I record holder with 1,005 wins.   

What’s even more impressive was the consistency of the teams he coached.

In 36 years as head coach of UNC, his lone losing season was his first, in 1961, where the Tar Heels had eight wins and nine losses.

Within his 36-year tenure, he led UNC to 17 Atlantic Coast Conference  regular season titles, 13 ACC tournament titles, 11 final four appearances and two national championships.

Individually, the eight ACC coach of the year awards he received measure his brilliance.

Smith is credited with the invention of the a unique offense style, which required the invention of the shot clock to stop it.

To further cement his legacy, Smith coached and developed Hall of Fame players such as Michael Jordan and James Worthy.

Jordan said he credits a portion of his success to the time he spent with Smith.

“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith,” he said, according to

With a testimonial like that coming from perhaps the greatest player in the history of the sport, it’s tough to deny the impact Smith left on his players, UNC and anyone in tune with college basketball.

As with the passing of any iconic sporting figure, enthusiasts initially mourn, but eventually mourning turns into a sense of appreciation for Smith’s accomplishments.