After spending 30 years as Dean Smith’s right hand man with North Carolina, Bill Guthridge was the logical choice when Smith retired following the 1997 NCAA Tournament. Tuesday night, Tar Heel Nation is grieving again for the second time in three months after Dean Smith’s successor is dead at the age of 77.
“Coach Gut”, as he was known to players like 1998 National Player of the Year Antawn Jamison, his Tar Heels teams reached the Final Four again in 1998 and 2000. His coaching record was a remarkable 80-28.
“I think the book on loyalty and friendship was written by Coach Guthridge.”
North Carolina legend Phil Ford at a press conference Wednesday morning in the Dean Smith Center
Under the Dean Smith regime, Guthridge mainly dealt with the centers–from the likes of Mitch Kupchak, Brad Daugherty, J.R. Reid, and Eric Montross.
By the team Smith retired, his teams were heavy on guard play–and boy, did they keep the mantel high.
Take a look at this clip from 1998, (dug up from the old Raycom cable days, where Billy Packer was doing games whenever he wasn’t doing any weekend games for CBS). This game featured North Carolina and Duke as the two top ranked teams in the country:
With the likes of Vince Carter and Donald Williams running the show, there certainly was lots of running and gunning. That certainly was a night never to be forgotten when North Carolina took over top dog status from their in-state rivals–at least until they arrived at that April’s Final Four in San Antonio.
May Coach Guthridge RIP.