Linnea Smith, Dean’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Dean Smith, Linnea Smith

Legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith, with his wife, Linnea.(Courtesy UNC)

Linnea Weblemoe Smith was the wife of legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, who died last night aged 83. In addition to being known as the wife of one of college basketball’s great coaches, Linnea is an activist and child advocate.

Here’s what you need to know about Dean Smith’s wife, Linnea Smith:

1. She Accepted the Medal of Freedom

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When her husband was unable to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom bestowed by President Barack Obama, Linnea Smith accepted on behalf of her husband. The honor was presented at the White House in Washington, D.C., Nov. 20, 2013. Dean Smith had suffered from dementia in recent years and had ceased most public activity by then.

Linnea Smith had two daughters with Dean Smith, Kristen and Kelly. The two were married in 1976. Linnea was Dean’s second wife — the basketball coaching great married Ann Cleavinger in 1954. They had three children, Sharon, Sandy and Scott, before divorcing in 1974.

2. Her Father Developed Missiles for the Navy

Linnea Smith,

Aviation ordnancemen prepare AIM 9 ‘Sidewinder’ short range, and AIM 7 ‘Sparrow’ medium range air-to-air missiles. (Getty)

Linnea was one of five children of James Weblemoe, a physics professor at  Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska until serving in World War II.

During the War, James Weblemoe served in the Navy and later worked as a physicist in civil service at the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in Corona and then Point Mugu. Point Mugu is a known missile test center, and gave birth to models like the Sparrow and Phoenix air-to-air missiles, and the Regulus surface-to-surface missile.

3. Linnea Won a UNC Peabody Award

In 2005, Lennea and Dean Smith were both honored by UNC’s highest honor, the Peabody Award, for their commitment to higher education.

When the university conferred the honor, it was noted that Linnea Smith “is an advocate for exploited women and children.”

According to the UNC’s School of Education:

“She is dedicated to educating parents, teachers, children and the community at large on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and the impact of pornography on our society.”

4. She’s a Psychiatrist by Profession

Dr. Linnea Smith worked as a psychiatrist, researcher and consultant, specializing in sexual violence, victimization, child trauma and maltreatment.

When asked to comment on her husband’s illness, she would describe it in clinical terms, as she once did for ESPN, calling it “neurocognitive disorder with multiple etiologies,” meaning it is part Alzheimer’s, part Parkinson’s disease, with some vascular dementia.

“If you have cancer, you can process it and come to resolution in areas that you need to, or make sense or meaning of your life, and meaning of what’s going on, and express your wishes. And we didn’t have that.”

She is a member of the board of Make Way Partners and, in 2006, received the Champions Award “for two decades of valiant support for their advocacy for human trafficking and other social services throughout the nation.”

5. She Campaigned Against Playboy and Sports Illustrated

Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel

Christie Brinkley And Her Daughter Alexa Ray Joel (L) Arrive For The Premiere Of ‘The Hamptons’ June 1, 2002. (Getty)


In 1992, Linnea Smith began a letter-writing campaign to Sports Illustrated advertisers asking them to boycott the magazine’s annual swimsuit edition.

As Smith wrote to advertisers:

“SI’s swimsuit issue sexualizes children by juxtaposing them with female models featured only for their sexual desirability and ‘easy access’ to all consumers.”

She did not take issue with the models themselves, but the use of children in the photo spreads. For example, she pointed to a 1989 photograph of a topless Christie Brinkley posing next to her daughter, Alexa, who was nude with her back to the camera.

Alexa Joel, born in 1985, would have been four years old at the time of the photo spread. As Smith told the Associated Press:

“The Christie Brinkley one is the worst. It makes absolutely no sense at all. I was unable to ignore it after that.”

Six years earlier, Smith had attempted to convince colleges to boycott Playboy Magazine’s annual college basketball preview, which she said encouraged the use of illicit drugs.

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