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N.C. Opinions: Durham

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Deserved honor for Dean

From an editorial in the Durham Herald-Sun on Friday:

Back in 1997, Michael Wilbon wrote about UNC men’s basketball coach Dean Smith’s decision to exit from the world of coaching. And while Wilbon made note of Smith’s winning ways, his larger, eloquently worded point was that Smith was an even better man than coach. Amen.

Smith has a strong sense of right and wrong. A fierce competitor with a love of winning, it was his moral compass that led him throughout his career. And, because of an overwhelming affection and respect for him, it also helped lead many of us.

Smith has engaged over the course of his life in political issues that he viewed through a prism of fairness and his core moral values.

Most famously, he brought diversity to UNC and Chapel Hill. He recruited UNC’s first black scholarship player. Even as a high school player in Kansas, he sought to integrate his team in Topeka.

He was straightforward in his beliefs, and did not shy from putting them in the spotlight to help galvanize change.

Smith is so very worthy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian. Smith, who has a progressive neurocognitive disorder, heart-breakingly, is unaware of the honor, according to an old friend. We are honored to count as one of our own a man who lived his principles, and we are better for his actions.

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