Basketball: Dean Smith, college coach of Michael Jordan, dies at age 83

Michael Jordan (left) and Dean Smith at halftime of the NCAA basketball game between North Carolina and Wake Forest University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Feb 10, 2007. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Michael Jordan (left) and Dean Smith at halftime of the NCAA basketball game between North Carolina and Wake Forest University in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Feb 10, 2007. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - Dean Smith, who coached the United States basketball team to an Olympic gold in 1976, won two national titles and helped develop National Basketball Association (NBA) great Michael Jordan, has died at the age of 83.

Teams coached by Smith, who died on Saturday at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, won two national championships, including the 1982 title with a squad led by Jordan, who went on to a Hall of Fame career with the NBA's Chicago Bulls.

As coach for the University of North Carolina (UNC), Smith won 839 games in all over his 36-year career. He took his team to 11 Final Four appearances in NCAA Division 1 tournament, which UNC won in 1982 and 1993.

Smith was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and in 2013 was honoured by President Barack Obama with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His wife accepted the medal on his behalf. The family had announced in 2010 that Smith suffered from a neurological disorder that affected his memory.

Jordan said in a statement on Sunday that nobody other than his parents had a bigger impact on his life. "He was more than a coach - he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father," he said. "Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life."

Smith also served as mentor to other players and assistant coaches who went on to coaching prominence themselves, including current UNC coach Roy Williams.

"It's such a great loss for North Carolina - our state, the University, of course the Tar Heel basketball program, but really the entire basketball world," Williams said. "We lost one of our greatest ambassadors for college basketball for the way in which a program should be run."

Smith was raised in Kansas, where his father was a high school teacher and basketball coach. Smith played on the 1952 Kansas team that won the national championship. He became an assistant coach at North Carolina in 1958.

"Known worldwide as a legendary basketball coach, our university, the Chapel Hill community, and the countless students, faculty, staff and people across North Carolina and beyond will remember him as a great teacher and remarkable pioneer in promoting equality and civil rights," the university said in statement on Sunday.