Dean Smith, legendary basketball coach at the University of North Carolina (UNC), has endorsed Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Public officials are under physical and digital siege We must protect and support our health care safety net MORE for president.

Smith sent an e-mail to Obama to supporters in the state, via Obama's campaign, asking them to donate and volunteer for the Illinois Democrat. Here's an excerpt:
There is a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option. That is why Linnea and I are writing to urge you to join Barack Obama's campaign for President.

There are pivotal moments in history when the right decision by a nation can change its course for the better -- opening up new paths before us and providing future generations with opportunities that we had not thought possible. This coming election provides one of those moments. Linnea and I believe Barack Obama is the right leader at this critical juncture. I have written that when coaching a team, you must be prepared to make changes to meet new challenges and obstacles. We must be prepared to do the same as a nation. Now, it is the United States that needs a change in direction... and a change in leadership.

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Join Barack Obama today by volunteering in your corner of North Carolina.

Smith has an enormous following in the state, where recent polls have shown Obama locked in a statistical dead heat with John McCain.

In April Obama played basketball with the UNC squad during a practice. The team is now coached by Roy Williams.

Smith backed former N.C. Sen. John Edwards (D) in the Democratic primary and has donated money to Democratic candidates exclusively since 2000, according to the Federal Election Commission's website.