02/08/2015 02:34 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2015

Obama: Dean Smith 'Not Just A Coaching Legend But A Gentleman And Citizen'

Win McNamee via Getty Images

President Barack Obama released a statement on Sunday commemorating the life of Dean Smith, the fabled basketball coach at the University of North Carolina who passed away Saturday evening at 83.

Obama, who awarded Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, praised Smith's work in encouraging teamwork, recruiting black players to UNC and supporting the Civil Rights movement.

Read Obama's full statement below:

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.



Notable People We've Lost In 2015