ST. LOUIS (USBWA) – The United States Basketball
Writers Association and the University of North
Carolina jointly announced today the creation of an award
to honor the late Dean Smith, coaching legend and former Tar Heels
The Dean Smith Award will be presented annually
by the USBWA to an individual in college basketball who embodies
the spirit and values represented by Smith. Candidates for the award
will include coaches and non-coaches, both male and female, from
all divisions of the NCAA and NAIA.
"We are proud to honor the legacy of Coach Smith," said USBWA
President Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports. "Dean Smith was not simply
a coach who won, but a coach who educated outside the gymnasium,
who demonstrated a concern for his players beyond their athletic
ability, who had an active voice on social issues and was an agent
for positive change. He was a great role model for his peers and
for future generations. We are pleased to recognize those who have
followed his path."
Smith passed away last February at the age of 83. He coached
36 seasons at North Carolina, winning two national championships
and an Olympic gold medal and appearing in 11 Final Fours. He retired
in 1997 with 879 victories, which at the time were the most by any
basketball coach in Division I history.
Smith is remembered not only for his coaching success but his
accomplishments off the court. He took a stand on a number of social
and political issues during his career, even though they were often
unpopular. He championed racial equality and joined in protests
on campus against segregation. He helped integrate a restaurant
and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill, and in 1966, he recruited the
first African-American player to North Carolina, Charles Scott.
Smith was opposed to the Vietnam War and the death penalty and
spoke publicly in support of women's rights. He also recorded radio
spots to promote a freeze on nuclear weapons.
In 2013, President Obama awarded Smith the nation's highest civilian
award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his "courage in helping
to change our country."
Smith is also known for his loyalty to his players. He was deeply
involved in their lives, both during and after college. Shortly
after his death, it was announced that Smith's will included sending
$200 to every letterman who played for him at North Carolina, with
the message, "Enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith."
Smith coached 30 All-Americans at North Carolina, including perhaps
the game's greatest player, Michael Jordan. "He was more than a
coach," said Jordan in a statement following Smith's passing. "He
was a mentor, my teacher, my second father."
"The Dean Smith Award is about recognizing individuals for things
beyond winning basketball games," said Washington Post columnist
and former USBWA president John Feinstein. "Coach Smith used his
platform to take on tough issues that most people in sports shy
away from. We want to honor those who have lived up to his ideals."
"The USBWA has a long history of supporting college basketball
and honoring the men and women who make our game great, so I am
thrilled that the USBWA would honor Coach Smith's legacy with this
award," says University of North Carolina head coach Roy Williams.
"The award will be especially meaningful because its criteria go
beyond winning games in selecting people in college basketball who
have made a significant impact on their communities. It recognizes
the profound impact Coach Smith had on so many lives. I am proud
that Carolina is teaming with the USBWA to establish the award and
honor the recipients here in Chapel Hill."
The Dean Smith Award will be presented at a dinner each year
prior to the start of the college basketball season in November
and potentially a day or two before North Carolina's first home
game, depending on the Tar Heels' schedule. The dinner will be held
on the UNC campus and open to the general public.
Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the Dean E. Smith Opening
Doors Fund, which assists students from low-income families in attending
college and professionals in education and social work – two fields
close to Coach Smith's heart – in pursuing advanced degrees.
The U.S. Basketball Writers Association was formed in
1956 at the urging of then-NCAA Executive Director Walter Byers.
With some 900 members worldwide, it is one of the most influential
organizations in college basketball. It has selected an All-America
team since the 1956-57 season. For more information on the USBWA
and the Dean Smith Award, contact executive director Joe Mitch at