CHAPEL HILL — A stretch of I-40 in Chapel Hill will be honorarily named for former North Carolina basketball coaches Dean Smith and Roy Williams.
The Chapel Hill Town Council approved a resolution to support the request on November 17, and the N.C. Department of Transportation approved it Wednesday.
The DOT will place signs designating stretches of I-40 from exits 266 to 270, on the northwest side of U.S. 15-501, the Roy Williams Highway and from exits 270 to 273, on the southeast side, the Dean Smith Highway.
“While their combined five national championships helped make UNC one of the premier basketball institutions in the country,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement, “it is their work off the court and in their communities that truly sets them apart. North Carolinians across the state are grateful for their leadership and these honorary road namings will help us recognize them for their hard work and sacrifice.”
Smith and Williams combined to coach the Tar Heels for 67 seasons (Smith was an assistant coach for three years and head coach for 36; Williams was an assistant on Smith’s staff for 10 years and head coach for 18).
The Naismith, College Basketball and North Carolina Sports Hall of Famers combined to lead Carolina to five NCAA championships, 16 Final Fours, 16 ACC Tournament titles, 26 regular-season ACC championships, 33 top-10 Associated Press rankings and 1,364 victories.
“This is a tremendous honor,” Kristen Smith Young and Scott Smith said in a statement on behalf of Coach Smith’s wife, Linnea, and his five children. “ We are grateful to the Town of Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Department of Transportation for arranging this lasting recognition. Though we know our dad didn’t want to be in the spotlight, he traveled these roads often both as a recruiter and a competitor. We hope as others drive through this area, either coming to Chapel Hill, supporting a home or rival team or are just passing through, they might have a positive memory of Coach Smith, about a game, the basketball teams he coached or time spent in this town and at the University.”
Williams, in a statement, said: “I’m flattered and consider myself to be a very lucky person to receive such an honor. This came as a complete surprise. I never had an idea this was in the works. It’s something our family and friends will share with a great deal of pride and will mean even more years from now as our grandkids and their families can see those signs with pride and enjoyment.”