Former Head Coach
Following a legend is no easy task, but Bill Guthridge has done an outstanding job
leading the Carolina
men's basketball program after Dean Smith stepped down after 36 years as head
coach. Guthridge followed college basketball's alltime winningest head coach
with a Final Four and an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in his first
year and a 24-win season and berth in the ACC Tournament championship game in
Guthridge has directed the Tar
Heels to an unprecedented 58 wins in his two years. That is the highest win
total of any two-year coach in NCAA history. He has done what many observers
predicted could not be done - taken over one of college basketball's premier
programs and continued to win games, recruit the nation's top student-athletes
and direct an all-around first-class program.
Smith decided to step down as
coach in October 1997. Athletic Director Dick Baddour turned to Guthridge and
immediately tabbed him to take over the Tar Heel program. It has proved to be
an outstanding choice. In his first season as a head coach since a stint in Puerto Rico in 1967, Guthridge led the Tar Heels to a
34-4 record, the ACC Tournament championship, a No. 1 final ranking in the
Associated Press poll, an NCAA East Regional title and a berth in the Final
Carolina posted two wins over
then No. 1 ranked Duke, won the Great Alaska Shootout with a championship game
victory over Purdue, boasted the National Player of the Year in Antawn Jamison,
won a school-record four overtime games and had two players selected in the top
five of the NBA Draft for the second time in four years.
Carolina equaled the school record for wins in a season with 34, the
second-highest single-season output in ACC history. The 34 wins also were the
most by any first-year head coach in NCAA history.
"Bill did a marvelous job,
but it was not a surprise to me or anyone who knows college basketball,"
says Dean Smith. "He never did receive enough credit, although he didn't
ask for it, for all his years as Tex Winter's assistant and my assistant.
Bill's basketball savvy, ability to remain composed and
genuine affection for his players are just some of the reasons for his
success as a head coach."
The Tar Heels were ranked No. 1
in the country three different times in 1997-98, including the final AP poll
heading into the NCAA Tournament. UNC won 17 consecutive games to start the
season and at no point in the season lost back-to-back contests.
Guthridge was named the National
Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, as well as
the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award), CBS/Chevrolet and The Sporting News.
He was also selected the ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Tar Heels to a
13-3 record in the regular season and the ACC Tournament crown. Carolina won the ACC title
by winning three straight games against teams it had lost to in the regular
season. Guthridge became the first coach in ACC history to win ACC
Coach-of-the-Year honors in his first campaign as a head coach.
"He doesn't want to take
any credit, but he was the man behind the scenes," point guard Ed Cota
said following Carolina's
83-68 win over Duke in the ACC Tournament championship
game. "We never had a doubt about him as a head coach. We wanted to win
this one for Coach Gut."
The Final Four was Guthridge's
13th as a player, assistant coach or head coach. He became the sixth person to
play on a Final Four team and then direct a Final Four squad as head coach. He
is the seventh person to lead a team to the national semifinals in his first
season as a head coach.
"No one can ever
underestimate how much Coach Gut has done. He's been great to play for. He's
been a great leader, and I think this proves it," said National Player of
the Year Antawn Jamison after Carolina defeated Connecticut in the NCAA
East Regional final to advance to the Final Four.
Early on, Carolina survived difficult non-conference
tests in which Guthridge showed his ability to manage tense, late-game
situations. Against fifth-ranked Purdue in the finals of the Great Alaska
trailed by eight points at halftime and by seven with seven minutes to play in
the second half. The Tar Heels then reeled off eight straight points to take
the lead and held on for a four-point victory.
After the game, assistant coach
Dave Hanners said, "It was just like Coach Smith was on the sidelines.
Everybody was so excited, hollering out ideas, and there was Coach Guthridge as
calm as ever. He really kept the guys composed down the stretch."
Last year, Carolina hit the court with its most inexperienced
team in more than three decades. Guthridge took a team that was without four
starters from the year before - including first-round draftees Jamison and
Carter - and went 24-10. The Tar Heels started two freshmen for much of the
season, yet still finished third in the ACC behind two teams ranked in the top
five in the country throughout the season. UNC qualified for NCAA postseason
play for the 25th consecutive season and won 20-plus games for a remarkble 29th
year in a row. Those streaks were no guarantees when the inexperienced Tar
Heels began the season.
"The only thing that's
different than Coach Smith is he's more vocal," says senior forward
Ademola Okulaja. "He's still a very funny guy, loose, calm. He's got the
same philosophy: Work hard, play together, play smart, and ultimately, you will
Expectations for another Final
Four run were raised again in November when Guthridge directed Carolina past FIU,
Georgia, Purdue and Stanford to win the Chase Preseason NIT. The Tar Heels were
the toast of Manhattan after beating the
11th-ranked Boilermakers and second-ranked Cardinal in Madison Square
The Tar Heels went 12-7 against
ACC competition in Guthridge's second season. The biggest conference win of the
year came in the ACC Tournament semifinals as Carolina edged fifth-ranked
Maryland, 86-79. That win came after the Terps won the regular-season matchups
by 13 and 17 points, respectively. The victory also put the Tar Heels into the
ACC championship game for the third straight year and eighth time in the last
"The first thing that
stands out about Bill Guthridge is his love for the University of North
Carolina," says Baddour. "Bill believes
in the special virtues that make Chapel Hill
and this University a unique and rewarding educational experience. Like his
longtime friend and mentor, Dean Smith, Bill instills a commitment to academics
first, social growth second and basketball third. It is obvious by the special
bond his players, both present and former, share with him that they are devoted
to Bill and thankful for his guidance and friendship. It takes a special person
to be remembered fondly for being both firm and funny, always in the best
interests of his students, and Bill is that special person."
As Smith's chief assistant,
Guthridge was involved in every aspect of the North Carolina program and there is not a
weakness in his coaching repertoire. He has a thorough knowledge of all aspects
of his profession-teaching, organizational skills, motivation, on-bench decision
making, practice plans and recruiting.
The Wall Street Journal noted
1998 Final Four march: "On its own terms this is a great story, both
because it suggests that organizations are full of underappreciated people who
need only a chance to showcase their talents, and because it reminds us that
ceaseless self-promotion and perpetual job-hopping are not necessary
ingredients for getting ahead. But what's most striking about Mr. Guthridge's
success is the way it reflects UNC's dedication to him. Even as corporations
increasingly look outside their ranks for top management, Mr. Guthridge's
experience suggests a more comforting model of succession."
Guthridge has been a part of 845
wins at Carolina.
Including 93 wins as an assistant coach at Kansas State,
he has been on the sidelines for 938 college basketball victories.
Guthridge, who was born on July 27, 1937, is a 1960
alumnus of Kansas
He played as a guard on Wildcat teams which won Big Eight Conference
championships in 1958, 1959 and 1960 and in his sophomore year, KSU made the
NCAA Final Four after winning the Midwest Regional championship.
Guthridge's esteem is held
equally high in Kansas as it is in North Carolina. In 1994
he was elected to membership in the state of Kansas' Basketball Hall of Fame by the
Kansas Coaches Association.
Guthridge has been a part of
some of the greatest teams in both Kansas
State and North Carolina history as an assistant
coach. In fact, Guthridge has been involved with 13 teams which have reached
the Final Four-as a player at Kansas State in 1958, as an assistant coach with
the Wildcats in 1964, as a Tar Heel assistant coach in 1968, 1969, 1972, 1977,
1981, 1982, 1991, 1993, 1995 and 1997, and as UNC's head coach in 1998.
Carolina has made 28 appearances in the NCAA
Tournament and four in the National Invitation Tournament in Guthridge's time
on the staff, participating in a postseason tournament in each of his years in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have finished third or higher
in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season standings in each of his 32
seasons, including 16 first-place finishes and 10 second-place finishes. In 23
of his 32 years, Carolina has either won the ACC Tournament, finished first in
the regular-season standings or done both. He also was on a staff that led Carolina to NCAA
championships in 1982 and 1993 and to the NIT title in 1971.
Guthridge also played a key role
when the United States won
the Olympic gold medal in 1976 at the Summer Games in Montreal. Smith named Guthridge and Georgetown head coach John
Thompson to his staff for the Games. Besides practice and bench coaching duties
at the Olympics, Guthridge also was responsible for scouting the Americans'
opponents during the two-week competition. The trio of Smith, Guthridge and
Thompson coached a talented American squad to the gold medal four years after
the U.S. had been denied the
gold for the first time in history in a heart-breaking one-point loss to the
Soviet Union in Munich.
Guthridge is the Tar Heels'
shooting instructor and it's no coincidence Carolina has shot at least 50 percent from
the field in 24 of the last 29 seasons and led the ACC in field goal percentage
19 times in the last 29 years. The Tar Heels have led the ACC in field goal
percentage shooting, the best example of the unselfish, ball-movement style of
is nationally known for, in five of the past six seasons.
Guthridge also excels as a tutor
for the Tar Heel big men and works individually with the frontcourt players
prior to each practice session. Among his former pupils are Rusty Clark, Bob
McAdoo, Mitch Kupchak, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Joe Wolf, Scott Williams,
J.R. Reid, Pete Chilcutt, Eric Montross, Rasheed Wallace, Serge Zwikker, Antawn
Jamison, Vince Carter and Ademola Okulaja.
A native of Parsons, Kan., Guthridge
played high school basketball for Harold Johnson, one of two brothers who
innovated the zone press in the 1930s. In addition to his basketball
accomplishments at Kansas
State, Guthridge also was
chosen as one of the University's 13 most outstanding all-around seniors in
1960 based on his leadership qualities, extracurricular activities and academic
After graduating from Kansas State,
he coached at Scott City High School
in Kansas for
two seasons before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach for Tex
Winter. In five years on Winter's staff, Guthridge
helped lead the Wildcats to a 93-43 record, a pair of Big Eight Conference
crowns and the 1964 NCAA Final Four.
Guthridge, who has led UNC to a
6-1 record in overtime games as head coach, came to Carolina
prior to the 1967-68 season after Larry Brown left to play in the ABA. He came to Carolina as freshman coach
and co-assistant varsity coach with John Lotz. In his first six seasons at UNC,
Guthridge directed the Tar Heel freshmen to a 72-25 record and a quartet of Big
Besides working with Smith and Winter, two of the great names in coaching, Guthridge also
coached in the Puerto Rican Amateur Athletic Union Summer Leagues twice,
earning Coach-of-the-Year honors. His work was so superb that he was invited to
coach the 1968 Puerto Rican Olympic Team.
However, Guthridge's greatest
fame has come from his work with the Tar Heels. Smith gives Guthridge much of
the credit for helping develop the players who have kept Carolina at the top of the college ranks
during the past three decades.
"Coach Guthridge is the
best I have ever seen in selecting potential in high school players,"
Smith says. "He has a keen sense of which ones will be very good players
and which ones may be overrated. He has saved many scholarships when he has
suggested backing off certain players, and of course, has selected some great
ones who matriculated at Chapel Hill."
Guthridge says he actually
enjoys the recruiting of new student-athletes for the Tar Heels.
"Some people say recruiting
is undesirable, that it's the worst part of being a college coach," says
Guthridge. "But my experiences have been very enjoyable. I think that has
had a lot to do with the type of young man that our University attracts."
Guthridge, whose Bachelor of
Science degree from Kansas
State is in mathematics,
received a master's degree in education from KSU in 1963.
His dry sense of humor makes him
one of the most popular speakers in the Carolina
athletic department. Tar Heel seniors annually credit Guthridge's discipline
and wit among the things they will miss the most about the Carolina basketball family.
Bill and his wife, Leesie, have
two sons, Jamie and Stuart, and a daughter, Megan.
- HEAD COACHING RECORD
- 58-14, two seasons
- B.S., Mathematics
- Kansas State '60
- M.A., Education
- Kansas State '63
- PLAYING EXPERIENCE
- Kansas State, 1958-60
- COACHING EXPERIENCE
- North Carolina, Head Coach
- North Carolina, Assistant Coach
- Kansas State, Assistant Coach
- Won more games (58) in his first two years than
any coach in NCAA history.
- Reached 50 wins faster than any coach in Carolina history.
- Was the consensus National Coach of the Year in
- Has been a part of 13 Final Fours, including one
as a player, 11 as an assistant coach and one as a head coach.