President Obama's Remarks On Dean Smith

President Obama's Remarks On Dean Smith

The President of the United States, Barack Obama, had the following remarks on Dean Smith today during the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony:

"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.

"And 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."

Later, President Obama added of the group of 16 Americans receiving the medal:

"These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us. I could not be more happy and more honored to participate in this ceremony here today."

And when the President presented the medal to each individual, with Coach Smith's wife, Dr. Linnea Smith, accepting on his behalf, this was the introduction:

"Dean E. Smith spent 36 seasons taking college basketball to new heights. As head coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he led his team to 11 Final Fours, two national titles, and 879 victories, retiring as the winningest men's college basketball coach in history.

"Dean Smith brought the same commitment to supporting his players off the court. He helped more than 96 percent of his lettermen graduate, and in an era of deep division, he taught players to overcome bigotry with courage and compassion. He will forever stand as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history."

As he presented the medal, the President acknowledged Roy Williams, sitting in the audience, with the familiar Carolina basketball "pointing to the passer" gesture: