At a ceremony at the White House Wednesday, President Obama awarded former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The president bestowed the nation's highest civilian honor on a class of recipients including civil rights activist Bayard Rustin and women's rights advocate Gloria Steinem. Smith was lauded not just for his many athletic achievements, but also for his impact on the community he calls home.
He recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina," the president said. " And helped integrate a restaurant in Chapel Hill. That's the kind of character he represented on and off the court."
On the court, Smith represented greatness. He won 79% of his games and retired as the winningest coach in college basketball.
"He graduated 96% of his players," the president noted.
He even managed good-humored joke about the coach's past.
"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. Though they used to joke that the only person who held Michael Jordan under 20 was Dean Smith."
Smith was unable to attend the event for medical reasons. His wife, Linnae, accepted the award on his behalf.