WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former University of North Carolina men's basketball coach Dean Smith received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday afternoon.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom the highest honor a civilian can receive in the United States. Smith was too ill to attend the ceremony, but his wife accepted the honor on his behalf.
During the ceremony, President Barack Obama said:
"Dean Smith is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history. But his successes go far beyond Xs and Os. Even as he won 78 percent of his games he graduated 96 percent of his players. He is the first coach to use multiple defenses in a game. He was the pioneer who popularized the idea of pointing to a passer. After a basket, players should point to the teammate who passed them the ball."
"With his first national title on the line, he did have the good sense to give the ball to a 19-year-old kid named Michael Jordan. Although they used to joke that the only person who held Michael under 20 was Dean Smith."
"While Coach Smith couldn't join us today due to an illness he is facing with extraordinary courage, we also honor his courage in helping to change our country. He recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill. That's the kind of character he represented on and off the court."
Former Player Curtis Hunter said, "Even when you go out to eat, he had etiquette courses. When we went to place to eat, they taught us the correct silverware. I don't know how many teams were doing that."
Coach Roy Williams said, "I'll never be as good as he was. I don't think anybody ever will be...Coach Smith...he was the best there ever was in my opinion on the basketball court. He was far better off the court. The things he did off the court meant so much more than the things he did on the court."
Greensboro Day School Coach Freddy Johnson added, "My favorite thing about Coach Smith is that he would never be disturbed when one of his players was in the office. That's the one thing I take with me. His players were the most important thing. I don't care if it was the chancellor calling or the athletic director calling, his players were the most important."
Scott Cherry, current High Point University Coach and former UNC player, said, "It wasn't always about wins and losses. It was about the daily effort and giving everything that you have every day. It was a commitment to do everything really, really well."
Sixteen people received the honor. Other recipients included: President Bill Clinton, entertainers Loretta Lynn and Oprah Winfrey and astronaut Sally Ride.