CHAPEL HILL–Carolina basketball legend Dean Smith will deservedly be receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom Nov. 20. And UNC head basketball coach Roy Williams recently talked with WNCN about his mentor, the man who has inspired him more than any other, and his health.
Coach Williams gave an update on Smith’s ongoing battle with dementia, saying Coach is definitely struggling, but that he still has his bright moments. And Coach Williams says he has seen the crippling disease strike his family as well.
“Coach is struggling. There is no question about that. He’ll still have some good moments, but it’s a very cruel disease. My sister got it at 50 and she was dead at 60, so I’ve been through it myself,” Coach Williams says.
Tragically, Coach Williams says it is hit or miss whether Smith recognizes him, and this speaks to the cruel nature of progressive dementia.
“It depends. Sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn’t [recognize me]. It’s just the memory loss, and the things that you have are cruel,” Coach Williams says.
Back in his prime, Smith was renowned for his remarkable memory. Coach Williams recalls some of those strokes of genius.
“You’re talking about the guy who had the best memory of anyone I’ve known in my entire life. He could see a guy in the airport and five years later, the guy could say I remember meeting you in the airport, and Coach said yeah, you were going to St. Louis, and I was going to New York,” Coach Williams says.
It is still unknown whether Coach Smith will be making the trip up to the White House to accept the Medal of Freedom in person on Nov. 20.