Dean Smith's wife: Presidential award 'a pinnacle' for UNC

Dean Smith's wife: Presidential award 'a pinnacle' for UNC coach

Posted: Updated:

The wife of former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith called Smith's Presidential Medal of Freedom award "a pinnacle" of his career, but said Smith would not attend the ceremony at the White House Nov. 20.

"For a while, we were trying to figure out any way we could to have Dean go to the presentation, but it's just really something beyond his ability right now. So that's our one bittersweet part of this, that he won't be able to attend," Dr. Linnea Smith said Wednesday.

Travel, she said, is hard for the former coach. His family revealed in 2010 that he is suffering from a "progressive neurocognitive disorder that affects his memory."

Dr. Linnea Smith kept a low profile throughout Smith's long career as the coach of the Tar Heels, and Dean Smith often kept his family out of the public spotlight.

But with the award approaching, she sat down with WNCN anchor Pam Saulsby at the Smith's Chapel Hill home, close to the UNC campus.

Inside, the house offers only a few clues that it is the home of one of college basketball's great coaches. There are ram statues and mementoes but, Linnea Smith said, the coach gave most of his memorabilia to the school.

Smith won multiple awards during his tenure with the Tar Heels, including multiple national and ACC coach of the year awards. He joined the Basketball Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

But Linnea Smith said of the Presidential award, "I'm sure it's a pinnacle. He's always struggled a little bit with recognition. He always felt a little bit uncomfortable being singled out for awards. He would use it as a time to call attention to those involved in the basketball program or those on the staff who worked with him.

"He felt like, as a public figure, it was easier to single him out for an award. But he appreciated and knew that other people contributed just as much to some of his achievements."

Representing Coach Smith at the awards ceremony will be Linnea Smith, three of his five children, UNC coach Roy Williams and former UNC coach Bill Guthridge, Smith's longtime assistant.

Coach Smith is being honored for his service that went beyond the basketball court. Smith played a key role in helping integrate the Chapel Hill community. In 1966, for example, he brought in basketball star Charlie Scott, the first black scholarship athlete at Carolina.

"The basketball gave him a position as a public figure and he took that very seriously," Linnea Smith said. "He did things that he thought were important to impact change or educate the public."

If he saw injustice, she said, "It made him determined. It would fortify his determination to do what he could to bring about change."

Smith  will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom Nov. 20. WNCN will air a half-hour special on Smith and his career at 7:30 p.m. The special includes exclusive interviews from key Carolina people who were close to Smith, like coach Roy Williams, former coach Bill Guthridge and former announcer Woody Durham. Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski also spoke with WNCN about his relationship with Smith.

Smith led the Tar Heels to 879 wins in his storied career but it also was his role off the court that his friends loved him for.

Smith's crucial role in the civil rights movement is just one of many reasons he's being awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy created the medal - the highest honor the U.S. bestows on civilians – by signing an executive order. In the five decades since, more than 500 people have been recognized for contributions to society of all stripes.

"This year's honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world," Obama said in a statement.

Smith joins a list that includes former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

"I know Dean would have been real excited to re-connect with Bill Clinton and some of the others," Linnea Smith said. "I'm looking forward to saying hi to Oprah and some of the others."

Clinton, who served as Arkansas' governor before being elected the 42nd president, will be recognized also for his humanitarian work through the Clinton Foundation.

Winfrey's career as an American broadcaster, actress and activist has spanned decades, with The Oprah Winfrey Show becoming the highest rated talk show in America for 25 years.

Others who will receive the medal:

-Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye will receive the award posthumously.

-Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper's coverage of Watergate.

-Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride will receive the award posthumously.

-Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.

-Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women's rights activist.

-Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

-Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin will receive the award posthumously.

-Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in economics.

-Loretta Lynn, country music singer.

-Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

-Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.

-Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court's chief judge.

-C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.

RELATED STORIES

Pam Saulsby

Pam anchors the 7 & 11 PM news. She is an Emmy winner and one of the area's most trusted journalists. Her "Pam Cam" franchise showcases her multiple skills and a sincere passion for storytelling. More>>

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • USA Police Investigating Allegations of Sexual Assault On Campus

    USA Police Investigating Allegations of Sexual Assault On Campus

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:27 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:27:27 GMT
    Police at the University of South Alabama received information that a female student was allegedly the victim of a sexual assault Wednesday morning.
    Police at the University of South Alabama received information that a female student was allegedly the victim of a sexual assault Wednesday morning.
  • Driver Licenses Delays

    Driver Licenses Delays

    Monday, April 21 2014 12:43 PM EDT2014-04-21 16:43:22 GMT
    Alabamians won't be able to get or renew driver licenses for a few days in late April. The Alabama Department of Public Safety says it has to convert a database to comply with federal regulations.
    Alabamians won't be able to get or renew driver licenses for a few days in late April. The Alabama Department of Public Safety says it has to convert a database to comply with federal regulations.
  • Spike in "Spice" Leads to Deaths, Illnesses

    Spike in "Spice" Leads to Deaths, Illnesses

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-04-22 22:58:46 GMT
    Mobile police are investigating two deaths and an unusual increase in illnesses from using synthetic marijuana, also known as "Spice."
    Mobile police are investigating two deaths and an unusual increase in illnesses from using synthetic marijuana, also known as "Spice."
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Mom wins lawsuit against TSA after breast milk screening problems

    Mom wins lawsuit against TSA after breast milk screening problems

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:40 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:40:54 GMT
    A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed has reached a settlement with the Transportation Security Administration. Stacey
    A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed has reached a settlement with the Transportation Security Administration. Stacey
  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
Powered by WorldNow

555 Broadcast Dr,
Mobile AL 36606

Telephone: 251.479.5555
Fax: 251.473.8130
Email: news5@wkrg.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.