Dean Smith, seen here in 2010, left a lasting impression on countless players. He created a special bond with Charlie Scott, the first black scholarship athlete at UNC. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — Dean Smith will be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the White House announced on Thursday. The award is the highest honor a civilian can receive, and is “presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
Smith is receiving the award in part because of all his teams accomplished on the court. The wins and the championships have been well-documented. The casual college basketball fan, though, might not understand Smith’s legacy off the court. His role as a civil rights advocate, his place as an outspoken social critic and as mentor to his players might be lost to those who only know Smith for basketball.
Smith’s relationship with Charlie Scott personifies a lot of Smith's attributes. Scott was the first black scholarship athlete at UNC, and he arrived in Chapel Hill in 1967 at a time when racial tensions were broiling in the South. Smith served not just as a coach to Scott, but as a calming influence in a world that at times seemed to be tearing apart. I had a chance to speak with Scott yesterday. Here'the story.
And here’s the interview: