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CHAPEL HILL (GoHeels.com) – Former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Bill Guthridge passed away last evening (May 12). He was 77 years old.
“Bill was uniquely special. He was a kind soul with a strong, competitive spirit. A relatively quiet man with a wonderful and dry sense of humor. A tremendously loyal person with an ego that was seemingly non-existent. I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone that didn’t like and respect Bill Guthridge. Just a really good man who made Carolina, the ACC and college basketball better.”
Guthridge led the Tar Heels to two Final Fours in three years as head coach and was the consensus National Coach of the Year in 1998. He won more games than any college head coach in history after two seasons and tied Everett Case for most coaching victories after three years. He played or coached in 14 Final Fours, more than any person in NCAA history. That includes two as a head coach at Carolina, 10 as a Tar Heel assistant coach, and one each as a player and assistant coach at his alma mater, Kansas State.
“Bill Guthridge was a gentlemen coach, but a fierce competitor, and an incredibly loyal member of Dean Smith’s staff for three decades,” says UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “When it was his turn as head coach, he immediately won an ACC championship and took two teams to the Final Four. I learned very quickly when I came to Chapel Hill how beloved and respected he was by people all across this community. His loss is deeply felt by our university and the basketball world. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.”
Guthridge was Dean Smith’s assistant for 30 years. He joined the UNC staff in 1967 after five years as assistant to Tex Winter at Kansas State. In his 33 seasons at Carolina, the Tar Heels won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993), played in 12 Final Fours, won the ACC Tournament championship 13 times and played in the ACC Tournament championship game a total of 22 times. The Tar Heels finished first or tied for first in the ACC regular season 16 times, finished second or tied for second in the ACC regular season 11 times, and finished third or tied for third in the ACC regular season six times.
He was a part of 867 wins in 33 seasons at Carolina and 960 college coaching victories overall, including 93 wins on the staff at Kansas State. He was on the sidelines for a record 73 NCAA Tournament victories, including 71 at Carolina and two at Kansas State.
The Parsons, Kan., native posted an 80-28 record in three seasons as Carolina’s head coach. Guthridge led the 1998 and 2000 UNC teams to the Final Four. He joined Ohio State’s Fred Taylor as just the second man in history to lead teams to two Final Fours in his first three seasons as a head coach. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1997-98 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Award), CBS/Chevrolet, the Columbus (Ohio) Touchdown Club and The Sporting News. That year, UNC went 34-4 and Guthridge set the NCAA record for wins by a first-year head coach with 34. He directed UNC to the 1998 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championship and was named the ACC Coach of the Year.
He was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
He coached 1997-98 National Player of the Year Antawn Jamison and 1998-99 NBA Rookie of the Year Vince Carter, both of whom entered the NBA Draft after their junior seasons. In his tenure at UNC, he coached five National Players of the Year, six ACC Players of the Year, five ACC Rookies of the Year and 28 first-team All-ACC players. He also coached 66 players who were selected in the NBA and/or ABA Drafts.
Guthridge was an assistant coach along with Hall of Famer John Thompson under Dean Smith in 1976 when the United States won the Olympic gold medal in Montreal.
He and his wife, Leesie had two sons, Jamie and Stuart, and a daughter, Megan.