KU Alum, Dean Smith, to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

LAWRENCE, Kan. – President Barack Obama announced Thursday that Dean Smith, former Kansas men’s basketball player and assistant coach, and legendary North Carolina basketball coach, would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at some point in the near future.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor. According to the White House, this award is given 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.”

“This year’s honorees have been blessed with extraordinary talent, but what sets them apart is their gift for sharing that talent with the world,” Obama said. “It will be my honor to present them with a token of our nation’s gratitude.”

The White House will announce a time and date when the medals will be awarded in Washington.

Smith, 82, competed at Kansas from 1949-53 and was a part of the Jayhawks’ national championship team in 1952, under the guidance of head coach Forrest “Phog” Allen.  Smith and the Jayhawks were national runners-up in 1953. 

After graduation, Smith served as an assistant coach at Kansas under Allen for the 1953-54 season.  Smith then went on to coach North Carolina basketball from 1961-97, winning two national championships. When he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history.

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