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USBWA Announces Creation of Dean Smith Award

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The United States Basketball Writers Association, in conjunction with UNC, has announced the creation of the Dean Smith Award.

The full press release from UNC:

CHAPEL HILL—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 basketball coach.

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.

Presumably the first time this award will be given will be this November prior to the start of the 2015-16 season. UNC senior guard Marcus Paige seems like a mortal lock to be the first recipient of the Dean Smith Award. He certainly fits the criteria and it seems fitting the first recipient should be a UNC player.