Former UNC Coach Bill Guthridge Passes Away

Bill Guthridge, former UNC men’s basketball coach and longtime assistant to Dean Smith, passed away Tuesday night.

1982 UNC coaching staff. From left to right: Roy Williams, Roy Williams, Eddie Fogler, Bill Guthridge and Dean Smith.

1982 UNC coaching staff. From left to right: Roy Williams, Eddie Fogler, Bill Guthridge and Dean Smith.

Guthridge served as Smith’s assistant coach for three decades. When Smith retired in 1997, Guthridge stepped in to lead the team.

Guthridge served as head coach of the Tar Heels for three seasons. He took the team to the NCAA Final Four twice in his three seasons and was named national coach of the year in 1998, before retiring in 2000.

Guthridge lived in Chapel Hill following his retirement. He was 77.

Listen to WCHL’s Ron Stutts and Freddie Kiger as they remember Coach Guthridge:


Woody Coley walked on to the UNC basketball team as a sophomore and played for Coach Smith and Coach Guthridge through his senior year in 1977. He spoke with WCHL’s Blake Hodge:

Vince Carter played for Guthridge and shared thoughts on social media:

Here’s the full statement from UNC Athletics:

Former University of North Carolina men’s basketball coach Bill Guthridge passed away last evening (May 12). He was 77 years old.

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.

Linnea Smith, wife of Coach Dean Smith, and the Smith family issued the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Coach Guthridge.  He was a fellow teacher and colleague to Dean for more than thirty years and a friend and confidant for even longer. He’ll be missed by our family and the entire UNC community.  We offer our condolences and our prayers to the Guthridge and UNC basketball families.”

Current UNC Basketball Coach Roy Williams offered this statement:

“It’s another tremendous loss for our University, our basketball program and our entire community. He was extremely special, important to every player, every coach who ever worked here. He was even more important to me.
Not only did he coach me on the freshman team, he was my coach, another mentor, a friend, a father figure, a big brother for me just like he was for so many players.
He was an unbelievable assistant to Coach Smith. Coach Smith had so many strengths and very few weaknesses, and the weaknesses that he did have Coach Guthridge tried to fill. He tried to do every one of those little things that drove Coach Smith crazy. He was a perfect sidekick for Coach Smith.
He stayed (rather than leave for a head coaching job at another university) because he was enjoying what he was doing and why leave something you know is good for the unknown. At one point he thought he wanted to be a head coach, but he also decided that he really enjoyed Coach Smith and the program here and why should he leave when he has what he thought was the perfect job.”

Antawn Jamison was the consensus National Player of the Year in 1998, Guthridge’s first season as head coach. He issued the following statement:

“I’m extremely saddened by the passing of Coach Guthridge, aka “Coach Gut,” especially coming so close to the loss of Coach Smith.  He, like Coach Smith, was more of a mentor and father figure than anything else. His legacy and contributions to my life and to our University will live on and he’ll be much more remembered for his sense of humor and class just as much as his coaching.”
ACC Commissioner John Swofford issued the following statement:
“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.”
Former UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour offered his condolences:
“Bill was one of the most respected and admired people I have known. If you played for him you loved him; working with him was a joy. The University of North Carolina has lost a dear friend, as have I, and I know that we will all miss him greatly.”
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued this statement:
“The Carolina community mourns the passing of Bill Guthridge, a great coach, devoted friend and loyal Tar Heel. For more than three decades, Coach Guthridge served this University he loved so much with a deep commitment to academic and athletic excellence. Like his lifelong friend and mentor, Coach Dean Smith, he led by example instilling values of kindness, discipline and a strong work ethic. His legacy lives on in each of the players who were privileged to call him Coach and countless Tar Heels and people across the nation who admired him. We offer our deepest condolences to the Guthridge family as they grieve the loss of a wonderful husband and father.”
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski offered this statement:
“It has been a trying time for the University of North Carolina basketball program over the past four months and our thoughts and prayers are with them again today after the passing of Bill Guthridge. Coach Guthridge played an instrumental role in the program’s success as an assistant under Dean Smith for three decades before making his own name as a head coach in leading North Carolina to a pair of Final Four appearances in three seasons. Though he was a head coach for a short time, he gracefully carried on a culture and legacy that many thought could not be perpetuated. We offer our deepest sympathies to his Bill’s family, friends and the entire North Carolina basketball community.”
4th District Congressman David Price issued the following statement on the passing of Bill Guthridge:
“Lisa and I have known Bill and his wife Leesie for many years. He had a remarkable career on the basketball court – two national championships in three decades alongside Dean Smith and two Final Four appearances in his three seasons as Carolina’s head coach. But I will remember him most strongly for his friendship and encouragement, and for his loyalty and devotion to the students he coached and to his neighbors in the Chapel Hill community. Lisa and I and many others will miss Bill’s good nature and generosity of spirit, and we are thinking of Leesie and his family at this time of loss.”

Cameron Crazies Camp-Out at K-ville

Some students will wait hours in line to see a Carolina-Duke basketball game. And others spend weeks camping in a tent.

Krzyzewskiville hosts some of the craziest college basketball fans out there, the Cameron Crazies.

Since 1986, Duke students have pitched tents outside Cameron Indoor Stadium months before the game.

Senior Anand Raghuraman wasn’t always a Blue Devils fan, but the Seattle native was quickly drawn into the UNC-Duke rivalry.

“There’s so much history to it and you look at all these pump-up, hype-up videos and the crowds just jumping around and people making last minute, game-winning shots,” Raghuraman says.

Kville has hosted tenting ticket hopefuls for nearly 30 years (Duke Chronicle)

Kville has hosted tenting ticket hopefuls for nearly 30 years (Duke Chronicle)

Raghuraman has tented for three of the four years he’s been a student at Duke. And it’s not until temperatures dive below 25 degrees that the Cameron Crazies are permitted to leave their tents.

“When it’s hovered around 26 or 25… that’s really miserable. You’re just kind of looking at your iPhone and thinking… Oh man… please for the love of God… go below 25. And sometimes it doesn’t and it sucks,” Raghuraman says.

The freezing cold isn’t the only element the Cameron Crazies have to deal with, and sometimes it takes more than just blankets and sleeping bags to protect them from the weather.

“This one day there was a huge wind storm and basically the tent felt like it was going to fall over. And so, we’re all in there and we’re all laughing at the fact that if this thing, we have also this battery in there, and so if the tent catches fire or somehow the battery explodes, we’re all going to die and that would be the saddest thing ever,” Raghuraman says.

The Seattle native wasn’t always a Blue Devils basketball fanatic, so what does his family think about all this?

“My mom tells me everyday… like… what are you doing? I’ve Skyped her a couple times in the tent and she immediately just clicks the off button. She just doesn’t even want to see me in there,” Raghuraman says.

Duke faces off against Carolina Wednesday night and leading up to that game, per tradition, one hundred tents will be lined up outside Cameron Stadium in hopes of punching a ticket to the game.

UNC’s Seymore Following His Dreams

UNC’s Sasha Seymore is used to winning titles… but not always in basketball. Despite being the senior class president and the recipient of the most prestigious scholarship UNC offers, Carolina basketball player may just be the sweetest title yet.

Seymore: I’ve always dreamed of playing basketball for North Carolina, so to make the team was in and of itself a dream come true. It’s such a special opportunity to put on a Carolina basketball jersey and say I’m part of something that has such a historic legacy.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Seymore played in six games as a walk-on for the Tar Heels before tearing his ACL in a game against Alabama-Birmingham. Seymore’s injury marked the end of his Carolina basketball career.

Seymore: I know there are a million kids out there who have the same dream that I’ve had. There are a million kids that have wanted to play basketball for North Carolina. So to even have gotten this opportunity in the first place is just such an incredible blessing.

Seymore says his injury won’t stop him from setting new goals.

Seymore: I really like setting goals and accomplishing them and I really like going after something so I think this is just another challenge and just another goal. It’s just another thing to overcome. And when I think of it like that, it gives me another thing to beat and I like that.

Whether he’s chasing his goals on the court or in the classroom, Seymore has one motto to live by.

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics

Seymore: I think it’s a little bit cliché to say, “keep following your dreams, never give up on that,” but that’s entirely true. That’s exactly what I did and each step in the process I had this end goal in mind of this is where I wanted to be and this is what I wanted to do. And as long as you keep that in mind, it’s entirely possible to do whatever it is that you want to do.

Seymore will be working abroad in Ireland next semester as the recipient of the Mitchell Scholarship—one of the most prestigious scholarships in the nation.

Art’s Angle: Already On The Bubble?

I guess it’s not too early to ask the question: Will Carolina make the NCAA Tournament this season?

The Tar Heels have missed the Big Dance only once in Roy Williams’ 11 years back in Chapel Hill, and while the current team is much better than the 2010 squad that went to the NIT final, several early season losses have already raised the question.

A disappointing defeat to then-unranked Butler in Nassau and a damaging home loss to Iowa have led to a 6-3 record after nine games, with UNCG in Greensboro Tuesday night and perhaps the most important non-conference game of the season against 12th-ranked Ohio State Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.

The Tar Heels did bounce back from Butler by knocking ranked UCLA and Florida out of the Top 25 to finish fifth in the Battle4Atlantis. And following a blowout of ECTC at home came what might be termed a “good loss” at No. 1 Kentucky because Carolina hung around with the best team in the country for much of the game.

After Ohio State are winnable (and must-win) home games against UAB and William & Mary before the rugged 18-game ACC schedule begins on January 3 at Clemson. That’s why the overall record by then needs to be 10-3 rather than 9-4. It is only a one-game difference, but doesn’t 10-3 sound so much better than 9-4?

College teams always want to have double-digit Ws by the time conference play opens. And the ACC has three teams in the top 10 (Duke, Louisville and Virginia) with Miami and Notre Dame joining UNC at the back end of the polls.

UNC’s home-and-home partners this year are Georgia Tech, Louisville, Duke and N.C. State. The road “singles” are at Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt and Miami, which means the Tar Heels do not give a return game to home opponents FSU, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia Tech and Virginia.

Dean Smith used to laugh when the late Jim Valvano said his goal was to finish 8-6 in the old 14-game ACC schedule. Smith was amused that Jimmy V was conceding six losses for his Wolfpack. So you will never catch Roy Williams saying his goal is to go 9-9 in league play but, realistically, that’s about what the Tar Heels have to do to get into the 2015 Big Dance.

Beating Ohio State, which has already lost to Louisville, would help the old RPI and mean the Heels defeated three teams that were ranked at the time, albeit all on neutral courts. Those wins are offset by the loss to Butler and the awful performance against Iowa at home. So call Carolina on the bubble right now.

The days of putting on a powder blue uniform and being a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament are long gone due to the balance around the country and a drop-off in Tar Heel talent since their 2009 national championship team. There are no seniors among the current top ten players, which bodes better for next season than this one. And certainly, things have to improve for Carolina to not only earn an NCAA bid but to get one of the top 16 seeds.

Where’s Paige?

Right now, the biggest concern is how discombobulated pre-season ACC Player of the Year Marcus Paige looks while splitting time at point guard and on the wing. He is still the team’s scoring leader, although his average is down three points from last year, and while his shooting stats are about the same, Paige’s assists are also down from his career average to this point.

Paige did light it up versus Kentucky in the second half, draining four three pointers. But he’s having trouble getting the ball in open spaces, and Carolina needs him to score in both halves against the better competition that’s coming.

While the starting bigs are averaging 25 points a game and 16.4 rebounds between them, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson have to play even bigger. They are both around the basket, getting their hands on a lot of 50-50 balls, but they don’t snag enough of them and neither finishes particularly strong. If they did, their shooting accuracy would be even higher than Meeks’ 62 percent and Johnson’s 51.

The two players who have to keep elevating their games are junior J.P. Tokoto and freshman Justin Jackson, who log the most minutes on the court behind Paige. The sky-walking Tokoto leads the team with 21 blocks, and Jackson possesses the all-around game to make him a star in the ACC someday.

On paper, that’s a pretty damn good starting five – Paige, Jackson, Tokoto, Johnson and Meeks – with solid minutes coming from Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson and Joel James. It has the makings of a top 10 team, if the Tar Heels can keep their motors running for every minute they are on the court and cut down on turnovers and carelessly committing too many fouls.

State is 8-2 against a typically soft early season schedule and suffered a killer home loss to Wofford. Time is running out for the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels have more time left to prove their worth, but they had better make the most of it.

A Day In The Life At The Battle 4 Atlantis

Eight teams. Eight fan bases. Three days. Twelve games. One mega-resort. 3,300 seats. And don’t forget that kooky dancing basketball…

Just what was the Battle 4 Atlantis like, anyway?

All week long, through upsets and nailbiters, as ranked teams fell to confident challengers, people both here in Nassau and back home in America have been commenting about how strong a tournament this has been. But it took a trip to the Caribbean to actually get here, and the Imperial Arena (actually the Imperial Ballroom) isn’t very big. UNC folks were everywhere at the Atlantis – only Wisconsin’s fan base was bigger, and every other team was far behind – but still, this was a pretty tough ticket to get.

So here’s a look at part of what you might have missed – with photos taken (mostly) on Friday before and during UNC’s match with Florida.

Battle 4 Atlantis - lobby

The lobby of the Atlantis Resort’s Royal Towers. Just like in the States, the Christmas decorations were out before Thanksgiving.


Heather and Colin of Anthony Travel handled hospitality for UNC fans.


Walking down the long hallway to the Imperial Ballroom Arena.


Things start to get crowded in between games, as one group of fans leaves the arena and another group shuffles in. In this picture you can see a young Wisconsin fan bottom left and a Tar Heel fan there in the center. For those of you keeping score, there were three roughly equal groups of fans at Atlantis: UNC fans, Wisconsin fans, and every other fan base combined.


Waiting just outside the hallway into the arena.


Fans walked down a long hallway into a circular central area, made a right, walked down another long hallway into THIS circular central area, then made a left up there where it says “IMPERIAL ARENA” and entered from there. The arena itself is just on the other side of the wall with the UNC and UCLA banners.


And here’s the entrance to the arena itself. Doors are on the left…


…where the Tar Heels are warming up. Again, what you’re looking at is actually a 50,000-square foot ballroom, so the entire floor is carpeted; the court has been placed on top of the carpet and those bleachers are temporary. (It’s all extremely intimate – imagine Cameron Indoor Stadium with the upper deck removed. They had t-shirt guns for time-outs, but I saw one of the t-shirt gun guys casually underhand a shirt up into the stands – and it made it halfway back.)


This photo’s dark, but this is your view entering the arena – you actually walk behind the back of the bleachers first.

4 - Battle4Atlantis Entering Imperial Arena

And then you round the corner and see this.


If you happened to catch the games on TV, you probably noticed the unusual lighting. Here’s a shot of the blue lights, as the Heels and Gators continue warming up.


They were handing these out to fans on Thursday. I’m not sure how many people used them; the games were exciting enough as it was.


This guy is Bounce, the official mascot of the Battle 4 Atlantis. I liked him.

On Thanksgiving, Bounce was paired with a second mascot, a man-sized turkey dressed as a Pilgrim. (Not making that up.) It was the most Thanksgiving-y thing I saw all day: Paradise Island really does not feel like a foreign country in any manner – they even accept US currency – but Thanksgiving is not exactly a big holiday there. (Though to be fair, Paradise Island exists to be a tourist destination, so I’m not sure any holiday would feel all that big. Maybe Christmas, I guess, but otherwise it’s just one eternal Saturday.)


Obviously I’m no professional photographer, but here are the pros, seated next to the basket in the middle of the game. See the guy with the dark hair and the mustache right in the middle, holding the big camera? That’s Nick Vitali; he took all the in-game shots for Chapelboro…

UNC Basketball Marcus Paige vs Florida in Battle 4 Atlantis - 3

…and that was his vantage point when he took this nice shot of Marcus Paige shooting over a Gator defender.


The Tar Heels beat the Gators, 75-64. Afterwards, Coach Williams and the players got a loud ovation from the UNC fans in the hallway outside the arena as they waded their way into the press conference room. “We’re very appreciative,” said Williams after the UCLA game on Thursday, noting just how strong the UNC fan base was in Nassau this week.

I took this picture around 11:00, about an hour after the game was over; numerous Tar Heel players were still out there, signing autographs, shaking hands, and taking pictures with dozens of fans. The Battle 4 Atlantis in a nutshell: players, coaches, and fans all intermingling in the same resort. Total strangers shouting “Go Heels!” and “Go Badgers!” at each other as they passed. Very cool atmosphere.


…and not a bad location either.

UNC Rolls Over Florida, 75-64, In Battle 4 Atlantis

The Tar Heel basketball team jumped out to a 12-0 lead on Friday and never looked back, rolling over the No. 16 Florida Gators 75-64 in the final game of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

It was UNC’s second win in as many days over a ranked opponent: they also beat UCLA on Thursday after an opening-game loss to Butler.

“We feel better than we did after the first night,” said head coach Roy Williams after the game.

Carolina hounded Florida on defense from the beginning; the Gators didn’t score until almost seven minutes had gone by. Florida’s outside shooting came up short as well: the Gators shot only 6-27 from 3-point range. (The Heels, by contrast, shot 6-12 from beyond the arc.)

Photo by Nick Vitali.

Photo by Nick Vitali.

By halftime, UNC led 39-23. Florida got as close as 7 in the second half, but never really threatened. The Tar Heels never trailed during the game.

It was a team effort all the way for UNC. Kennedy Meeks led the way with another double-double, 18 points and 13 rebounds (tying his career high for rebounds). Justin Jackson scored the first five points of the game and ended with 12.  JP Tokoto and Brice Johnson each added 10, and Marcus Paige chipped in 16.

Brice Johnson goes high for a slam against Florida. Photo by Nick Vitali.

Brice Johnson goes high for a slam against Florida. Photo by Nick Vitali.

But UNC struggled against Florida’s full-court press, and the Tar Heels shot only 32 percent in the second half after shooting 58 percent in the first half – points that Williams says give the team something to work on.

Tonight Billy’s press really bothered us,” he said, referring to Florida head coach Billy Donovan. “We turned it over 19 times, and that’s too many to say the least.”

Still, UNC came away with a double-digit win against a ranked opponent. Both Williams and his players gave part of the credit for that to the team’s depth – which allowed the players to stay fresh, even while playing three games in three days.

“Yesterday (against UCLA) I think we (only) had two guys play over 22 minutes,” Williams said. “The depth helped us win the game last night, and I think it helped us get off to a better start tonight.”

JP Tokoto agreed. “In the UCLA game, the guys were really fired up from the Butler loss…(and) for this game it was the same thing as yesterday,” he said. “We knew we had to come out with energy – (and) everyone played three games, so we knew we couldn’t use that as an excuse. Our depth really helped us.”

Marcus Paige drives against Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Photo by Nick Vitali.

Marcus Paige drives against Florida in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Photo by Nick Vitali.

With the win, UNC moves to 5-1 on the season (2-1 this week in the Bahamas) and takes home fifth place in the Battle 4 Atlantis – a high-level tournament that included four ranked teams plus at least three high-quality unranked teams in Butler, Georgetown and Oklahoma.

“We were exposed to many different things,” Williams said – citing Butler’s physical play, UCLA’s speed, and Florida’s screen on the ball. “Used to be, a tournament would be four good teams and four not-so-good teams. But this is a big time tournament…great tournament, great field, and I do believe it really helped us.”

Wisconsin took home the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis title by beating Oklahoma in the championship game on Friday.

UNC has very little time to relax: they host Iowa on Wednesday back in Chapel Hill, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Tar Heels Bounce Back, Beat UCLA 78-56

One day after a disappointing loss to Butler, the Tar Heel basketball team changed up its lineup, came out fresh, and rolled to a 78-56 victory over the no. 22 UCLA Bruins on Thanksgiving night in the Bahamas.

Roy Williams started Isaiah Hicks, Joel James, and Nate Britt in place of Brice Johnson, JP Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks. James was a non-factor, but Hicks finished with 10 points on 5-7 shooting – tying the career high he set the day before.

“They pay me a lot of money to make decisions,” said head coach Roy Williams on the lineup switch. “I was ticked off (after the Butler game), I made decisions – and it worked out fine.”


Meeks, Johnson and Tokoto prepare to enter the game after sitting the first couple minutes. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

UCLA jumped out to an early 7-point lead, but Carolina came back quickly, took the lead, and went into halftime up 43-29. UCLA cut the lead to 9 early in the second half, but the Tar Heels rolled from there, dominating in the paint and hitting outside shots over the Bruins’ zone. Marcus Paige gave Carolina a 17-point lead with back-to-back three-pointers, and UCLA never threatened again.

“We shot the ball better, and we caught UCLA on a night when their shots didn’t go in,” said Williams.

Paige led the way for the Heels with 21 points. Justin Jackson added 12 and JP Tokoto chipped in 10 off the bench.


Marcus Paige battles UCLA’s Bryce Alford for the ball. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

“We did get a little motivation from our coaching staff” after the Butler game, said Paige. (An understatement, presumably – as a laughing Williams sat beside him.) “I like the way we responded; hopefully we won’t have to have a lot of those teaching points again.”

A night after being out-muscled by Butler, the Tar Heels led the Bruins 34-28 in points in the paint.

The key stat, though, was turnovers. Hounded by Carolina’s defense, UCLA turned the ball over 23 times to UNC’s 11, and UNC capitalized, leading the Bruins 31-6 in points off turnovers.

“For us it’s easy now to see the difference in how we played tonight versus how we played yesterday,” said Paige. “Being unselfish, flying around on defense – that’s a more fun style to play, and when you see the results…why wouldn’t you want to play that way?”


Tokoto electrified the crowd with a big breakaway dunk. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

In all, ten Tar Heels scored in the game – including Sasha Seymore, who came in late with the Heels up big.

“We play more guys than they do…and so it was important for us to have fresh troops out there most of the time,” said Williams. UNC’s deeper bench meant their players would be better rested in the second half, a big advantage in case the Heels needed a comeback.

On this night, though, they didn’t even come close to needing it.


Meeks and crew celebrate the Tar Heels’ victory. (Photo by Nick Vitali.)

The Heels next face Florida in the fifth-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Friday night at 8 pm. (The Gators narrowly escaped an upset bid by UAB in the late game. Florida and UNC last met in the 2000 Final Four.) Wisconsin and Oklahoma will meet in the final at 4:30.

Experience, Talent & Depth Trifecta Tantamount for Tar Heels

Through two games, the UNC men’s basketball team has been coasting. More challenging hurdles await, but for now, the Tar Heels are enjoying a squad equipped with experience and deep in talent.

***Listen to the story***

“In 1990, I think we averaged 92 per game and shot over 50 percent from the floor. People just couldn’t guard us because we had all guys who could pass and shoot. That was a lot of fun. I just sort of sat over there and clapped. This could be the best offensive rebounding team I’ve ever coached. Now we have to do it,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

One of the freshmen with boundless potential is Justin Jackson. Jackson has been impressive so far, running the floor with ease and seemingly always putting himself in the right position to make plays.

Jackson shoots (Todd Melet)

Jackson shoots (Todd Melet)

Jackson recorded 13 points in the Robert Morris romp and says he’s having fun and staying relaxed in the spotlight.

“I just try to have fun with it, play my game and do whatever I need to do to help the team win. I try not to pay attention to all the other stuff out there. I just try to play my game,” Jackson says.

UNC has faced primarily zone defenses to date this season, but Coach Williams is hoping his team’s dominance in the rebounding department can overcome any shooting slumps and in effect, beat all future zones.

“If you aren’t a good shooting team, you better go get your misses. We’ve had some teams that didn’t mind playing against the zone, and people didn’t play zone against us because we moved the ball so well and did a great job on the offensive backboards. That’s what we have to do if we’re not shooting the ball as well as I’d like us to,” Coach Williams says.

Junior forward J.P. Tokoto had 10 assists Sunday thanks to laser-like precision and sharp court awareness.

But Coach Williams says he needs more than just exceptional passing. He needs him to take over the offensive boards.

“He’s really a good passer, period. He’s got size and looks over the defense. He’s really a good passer, but I told him I don’t want him to think he’s the assist man only, because he’s one of the best offensive rebounders I’ve ever coached. We’ve got to get him going to the boards,” Coach Williams says.

Sophomore forward Kennedy Meeks scored 21 points last time out in the Smith Center.

Brice Johnson, Paige & Meeks watch on (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson, Paige & Meeks watch on (Todd Melet)

But despite the encouraging performance, Meeks says Coach Williams is pushing the Tar Heels for more – he wants greater intensity on a consistent basis from all of his players.

“Rebounding, effort – he really didn’t use ‘sense of urgency’, but that’s what he meant. I know he talked about it last year a lot. It’s something that’s important to our team,” Meeks says.

Yes, the fourth ingredient to the magic formula for success may yet again be ‘sense of urgency’.

And if the Tar Heels can add a dash of passion to their experience, talent and depth, the sky may very well be the limit for this year’s Carolina squad.

Johnson, Meeks Shine As Carolina Conquers Robert Morris

The North Carolina men’s basketball team downed Robert Morris 103-59 Sunday evening in the Smith Center to improve to 2-0 on the year.

With the loss, the Colonials dropped to 0-2 overall.

***Listen to the story***

Brice Johnson led the Tar Heel scoring charge with 23 points, eight rebounds and was closely followed by Kennedy Meeks with 21 points, 12 rebounds. Marcquise Reed  topped the Colonial stat sheet, contributing 22 points to the losing cause.

“We were much more active defensively tonight than we were Friday night. That feels like a long time ago. […] We were more gifted than Robert Morris. I was pleased with our effort. The biggest thing is early in the game, we dominated the boards,” UNC head coach Roy Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

UNC outrebounded Robert Morris 49-31. The Tar Heels imposed their improved physicality on their opponent.

“Kennedy [Meeks] and myself were exploding up there and getting it. That’s one thing Coach has been telling us – explode up there and grab it. We did a good job of keeping it high, going to get the rebound and putting it back up there,” Johnson says.

UNC opened proceedings with focused intent, playing smothering defense and using efficient and balanced offensive play to storm out to a 12-2 lead with 15:50 on the first half clock.

Johnson battles inside (Todd Melet)

Johnson battles inside (Todd Melet)

Freshman Marcquise Reed provided a solid offensive boost for the Colonials, finding space and knocking down shots with ten quick points early.

“It’s great for him. A lot of our guys that are playing their second college game made strides in the right direction. Obviously, Marcquise made some great individual plays in the context of our offense,” Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole says.

Meeks established himself as the dominant player on the floor, though, dominating inside and accumulating 15 points just 12 minutes into the game.

Meeks finishing at the basket (Todd Melet)

Meeks finishing at the basket (Todd Melet)


Carolina continued to distribute the ball well with crisp passing, refusing to settle for anything but high-percentage shots to the delight of Coach Williams.

At the half, the Tar Heels enjoyed a 53-35 advantage.

UNC shot out to another strong start for the final 20 minutes of action, running the floor with ease and going up to the rim with authority. UNC started on a 23-6 run to pull away.

Marcus Paige really got things going as well with seven straight points that provided even more separation for the home team.

Desmond Hubert offered up a monster dunk with a note-worthy leap that had the Dean Dome crowd erupting.

With 11:40 remaining in the game, Carolina had built an 80-43 advantage.

From there, the Tar Heels never looked back and cruised to victory, allowing Coach Williams to play with his lineup and get all his players plenty of meaningful playing time.

Next up for Carolina comes a road game in Charlotte at the Time Warner Cable Arena next Saturday, Nov. 22 against the Davidson Wildcats.


Balanced Tar Heels Clip Eagles 76-60 In Home Opener

The No. 6 North Carolina men’s basketball team got its season off to a winning start with balanced scoring that led to a comfortable 76-60 triumph over the N.C. Central Eagles Friday night in the Smith Center.

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Junior forward Brice Johnson led the Tar Heel scoring charge with 12 points and tossed in eight rebounds and two blocks. Those 12 points match the smallest output by a UNC leading scorer in any game last year.

Kennedy Meeks and J.P. Tokoto also scored in double figures with 10 points each, while freshman Justin Jackson closely followed, tallying nine points of his own.

UNC head coach Roy Williams reached an impressive milestone Friday night, earning his 1000th combined win as a college coach, beginning with his days as an assistant under Carolina’s Dean Smith.

Coach Williams wasn't all smiles Friday night (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams wasn’t all smiles Friday night (Todd Melet)

Coach Williams, though, wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the game. He says he was frustrated with his team’s overall play.

“We went to a lot of different lineups tonight, played a lot of people, didn’t shoot the ball exceptionally well and didn’t handle the ball exceptionally well. We had 14 turnovers, and they had 14 turnovers. They’re playing zone most of the game. We were playing pressure man-to-man and full-court man-to-man and didn’t exactly get them to turn the ball over,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

Earlier in the week, it seemed a certainty that junior forward J.P. Tokoto would be in the starting lineup for the home opener, but Coach Williams surprisingly started freshman Theo Pinson in his place.

Coach Williams says Tokoto did something to upset him in my practice, but insists he’s put it all behind him and is still pleased with Tokoto’s play leading up to the season.

“J.P. made a mistake in practice and did something I didn’t like, so I didn’t start him. It’s over with now. He started in the second half. It’s no big deal. He’s had a great preseason. He’s done some nice things for us and has had as good of, if not the best, preseason practice period as anybody on our team,” Coach Williams says.

Promising freshman Jackson was a star performer in the two preseason exhibition games, but he admits he felt a little more pressure Friday night in the regular season opener.

“I wouldn’t say I was extremely nervous, but obviously, it’s the first game that really counts. I was a little nervous, but once I got out there and started playing, I was fine,” Jackson says.

Jackson also notes a glaring strength for the Tar Heels – their depth.

Justin Jackson drives to the basket (Todd Melet)

Justin Jackson drives to the basket (Todd Melet)

“On the court, we just keep getting better. We’ve got so many guys that can play this game. We can go so deep and never lose it. It’s really great,” Jackson says.

N.C. Central head coach LaVelle Moton, whose stock is rising with each successive season, had his Eagles playing a disciplined brand of basketball, confusing the Tar Heels at times with multiple defensive schemes.

Anthony McDonald scored 16 points to lead the Eagles on the offensive end.

Coach Williams was full of praise for the solid coaching job turned in by Coach Moton, but there was one irksome play that stuck out in his mind that will have an effect on practice this weekend.

“I think it’s a good learning experience. It’s a good team, a very good coach, and those kids played really hard. Again, one play in the first half, they had one guy going for the rebound and we had four. Who came up with the ball? Their guy. We’ll see that play at practice tomorrow,” Coach Williams says.

With the win, Carolina is now 93-12 in season openers and has recorded wins in 80 of its last 85 opening games. Under Coach Williams, the Tar Heels are 11-1 in openers.

UNC returns to action Sunday evening at 6 p.m. with a matchup against Robert Morris of the Northeast conference. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. tipoff.