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, 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:
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.”