Former University of North Carolina basketball team head coach Bill Guthridge has been confirmed dead at 77. Guthridge, in his 30 years of coaching, his reign was initially started by his position as assistant to legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith. UNC officials stated that he passed away on Tuesday night. Although the 77-year-old reportedly had been suffering from amyloids on his heart and vascular dementia, the exact cause of death is currently unknown. Guthridge was put in a Chapel Hill assisted living faculty a few months ago.
When coach Smith retired in 1997, after a tenure of 36 season, Guthridge took over the job to begin a reign of great basketball playing at UNC. In his first year as head coach, he led the the team to the March Madness Final Four round. Although the team did not win the championship, Guthridge’s coach produced Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, both selected in the top five picks in the 1998 NBA draft.
In the 2000 season, Guthridge coached a less than average team well enough to reach the Final Four again. The coach had a winning record of 80-28 in his first three seasons from 1997-2000. After just three seasons, Guthridge retired.
He is best remembered for his fastidious work and dedication to coach Smith. Although, he had many opportunities to leaving UNC for other schools with head coaching offers, he stuck beside Smith because he loved his position on the coaching staff. When he was still an assistant years ago, he told a newspaper that he refused to leave the UNC basketball program because he believed other coaching positions on the nearly 300 other Division I teams would not satisfy him like his job at UNC.
Guthridge and Smith were a fantastic coaching duo, though their careers together originated much earlier. Both coaches were Kansas natives. Smith was from Emporia, Kansas, and Guthridge was from Parsons, Kansas. The two coaches played basketball at Kansas schools, Smith at the University of Kansas and Guthridge was a guard at Kansas State. Both were also assistant coaches at their respective colleges upon graduation before teaming up at UNC.
Guthridge began his career as a freshman and co-assitant varsity basketball coach at UNC under Smith. After over 30 years, he became the legendary coaches most trusted coaching asset.
During Guthridge’s 33 years on the UNC coach staff, the basketball team made 29 NCAA tournament appearances. Moreover, the team never finished below third place in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) during the regular season. They were first place in 16 seasons, 10 in second place. The UNC Tar Heels either won the ACC tournament or placed in the top rankings in 23 of those seasons.
In October 1997, when Smith annouced his retirement from head coach of the team, Dick Baddour, UNC’s athletic director, promoted Guthridge to lead the basketball team further on its track as one of the NCAA’s best. In his first season, he showed the nation’s college basketball scene that his promotion was well-deserved. In the 1997-1998 season, Guthridge led the team to a final record of 34-4, resulting in a number one ranking by the Associated Press Top 25. This earned him the ACC Coach of the Year award. The Tar Heels went on to play Utah in the Final Four of 1998, but lost.
In the 1998-1999 season, the team had an impressive record of 24-10, but lost in an upset from Weber State in the Big Dance of the NCAA tournament. In his third and final season, Guthridge’s team went 18-13, the worst finish in decades for the NCAA-leading team. Though, the team rallied during the postseason and went to the Final Four again.
Guthridge will be remembered as one of the greatest assistant coaches in NCAA history. Following Smith’s retirement, he also proved that he could be one of the best head coaches in the NCAA
By Alex Lemieux
Greensboro News & Record