"He set the standard for loyalty and concern for every one of his players, not just the games won or lost," current North Carolina head coach Roy Williams said in a statement. "He was the greatest there ever was on the court but far, far better off the court with people."
The Tar Heels' rival, Duke University, tweeted its condolences, while Kentucky head coach John Calipari termed Smith "the most innovative and player-loved coach of his time."
We're saddened to hear of the loss of Dean Smith - a tremendous coach and teacher, but an even better person. Condolences to the UNC family.— Duke Athletics (@Duke_ATHLETICS) February 8, 2015
Dean Smith was the most innovative and player-loved coach of his time.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 8, 2015
Former UNC player Sean May, whose father was also coached by Smith, posted a photo of Smith to his Instagram account while NBA legend Kobe Bryant mourned "one of the greatest teachers our beautiful game of basketball has ever seen."
Thoughts and Prayers go out to the Smith family..... As well as the #CarolinaFamily we lost on of the great basketball minds and one of the most influential people I have ever met. Coach Smith was a Huge reason why I ended up at North Carolina, because of his relationship with my father after he played for him in the Olympics. Coach Smith promised my father he would look after my while I was at UNC, my entire career at UNC Coach Smith would always go out his way to check on me from time to time and make sure I was ok..... Even when I knew he had much more important things to do..... Extremely Blessed and fortunate to have met and been around such a great person. #wewillmissyouCoachSmith
Smith, who coached innumerable players, including Michael Jordan, over his 36-year head coaching career and won 879 games and two NCAA championships, lived with advanced dementia late in his life.
- Will Green