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CHAPEL HILL – Carolina basketball coaching legend Dean Smith has been selected receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The UNC patriarch will be awarded the medal alongside baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at a time and date to be announced by the White House.

President Obama is a self-described “sucker” for the Tar Heels, and this is a special way to honor the deserving coach and humanitarian for all he has meant to the sport and the country.

On the court, Smith won two national championships and when he retired, he was the winningest coach in college basketball history. But it is the humble man’s work away from the sport that truly set him apart and deems Smith worthy of the United States’ highest civilian honor.

Taking a stand in a time period when many high-profile figures sat on the sidelines, Smith used his position to advocate for civil rights. In fact, Smith recruited UNC’s first black scholarship athlete and helped in Chapel Hill’s desegregation process in the 1960’s.

Many of his players called Smith a “second father” and his leadership of these young men led to an impressive 96 percent graduation rate.