Former UNC Coach Bill Guthridge Passes Away at 77


Yesterday former North Carolina basketball coach Bill Guthridge died at the age of 77. According to reports by Andrew Carter of the Raleigh News and Observer, Guthridge had been suffering from an incurable heart condition. He also suffered from dementia, which is similar to what Coach Dean Smith was dealing with at the end of his life.

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In some ways it makes perfect sense that Guthridge followed Smith so quickly. Guthridge worked as an assistant for Smith for thirty years. He took over the program for three years after Smith’s retirement in late 1997. The two men had also cut their basketball teeth in the state of Kansas, where Guthridge was part of a Final Four Kansas State squad in 1957.

For much of Smith’s tenure, Guthridge was the chief recruiter and scout on the North Carolina staff. During his own tenure as head coach, Guthridge lacked an assistant who had done the things he had done for Smith. Not to say that Guthridge did not win games during his time as the head man in Chapel Hill.

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Guthridge took a loaded team including Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter to the Final Four in 1998, and then returned to the Final Four with Brendan Haywood, Jason Capel, and senior Ed Cota in 2000. Guthridge compiled a record of 82-20. He was the Naismith Coach of the Year in his first season.

When Roy Williams came to Chapel Hill in 2003, two banners were added to the numerous honored jerseys. One was a banner to honor Dean Smith. The other was a banner to honor Bill Guthridge.

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  • Guthridge never really wanted to be the head man, happy as he was being Smith’s main assistant. His new duties prevented him from doing all of the things he did so well under Smith. The 8-20 team in Matt Doherty’s second season has a little to do with recruiting decisions made by Guthridge at the end of his tenure.

    Again, losing Guthridge so soon and so similarly to losing Smith is an extra blow to the Carolina family. Guthridge’s accomplishments and achievements will probably never appear in some stat book. Yet he was an important part of what Dean Smith built at North Carolina.

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