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Bill Guthridge Has Passed Away at 77

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Former Tar Heel head coach and longtime assistant to Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge has died, just three months after his longtime friend and mentor. Inside Carolina was the first to report the story.

According to his official bio, Guthridge, who like his mentor hailed from Kansas, joined Dean Smith's staff in 1967 and remained the legendary coach's right hand man for 30 years which included two NCAA titles and numerous trips to the Final Four. When Dean Smith retired in October, 1997, Guthridge's loyalty was rewarded with the head coaching job.

Guthridge took charge of a loaded roster in 1998 which included NPOY Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, UNC's eventual all-time assist leader Ed Cota and Shammond Williams who left Chapel Hill as one of the most prolific three point shooters in Tar Heel history. That team won the ACC Championship and made it as far as the Final Four before falling to Utah.

The next season was a rebuilding year that saw UNC bow out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The 2000 season proved to be a struggle with UNC a #8 seed going into the NCAA Tournament but an upset of #1 seeded Stanford opened the door for UNC to take Guthridge to a second Final Four in three seasons.

That surprise Final Four run would be Guthridge's last. He stepped down after just three seasons with an 80-28 record, two Final Four appearances, an ACC Championship and national coach of the year honors in 1998.

Following his brief head coaching stint at UNC, Guthridge, like Smith before him continued to be around the program even maintaining an office in the Dean Smith Center. Also similar to Smith, Guthridge's health began to decline in eerily similar and saddening fashion. The N&O's Andrew Carter wrote in February following the death of Dean Smith that Guthridge was also battling dementia among a variety of health ailments.

The loss of Guthridge is yet another star going dark in the sky of Tar Heel greats, a far too oft occurrence over the past six months.

Rest in peace Coach Gut and prayers for his family during this difficult time.

Full press release from UNC:

CHAPEL HILL – 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.