Dean Smith, the legendary former coach at North Carolina, and Chicago’s Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, have been chosen to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, ESPN reports.
The announcement is expected to be made later today and a time and a date will be set for President Barack Obama to present the awards at the White House.
Smith, 82, won 879 games, then an NCAA Division I men’s record, over 36 years as Tar Heels coach, retiring in 1997. Three years ago, his family revealed that he has Progressive Neurocognitive Disorder.
“Although some of the ways he experiences daily life have changed,” his family wrote three yeas ago, he still cherishes his many relationships with Carolina basketball, his family and his friends …
“He may not immediately recall the name of every former player from his many years in coaching, but that does not diminish what those players meant to him or how much he cares about them.”
Banks, also 82, was a 14-time all-star and two-time National League MVP, spending his entire career with the Cubs. It was Banks who joyously said, “It’s a beautiful day for a ballgame… Let’s play two!” He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year of his eligibility.
The Medal of Freedom is given to those “who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”