Smith unexpectedly retired before the start of practice for the 1997–98 season. He was succeeded by Bill Guthridge, who had been an assistant coach at the school for 30 years, the last 25 as Smith's top assistant. During Guthridge's three seasons as head coach he posted an 80–28 record, making him tied for the then-NCAA record for most wins by a coach after three seasons. The Tar Heels reached the NCAA Final Four twice, in the 1998 tournament and again in the 2000 tournament. North Carolina reached the Final Four in 2000 as an 8-seed, their lowest seeding in a Final Four appearance.
In the 2008–09 season, the Tar Heels won their fifth NCAA title by defeating Michigan State in the championship of the 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The Tar Heels won all six of that year's tournament games by at least 12 points, for an average victory margin of 20.2 points, and only trailed for a total of 10 minutes out of 240 through the entire tournament. Wayne Ellington was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, the fourth Tar Heel so honored.
After wrapping up practice on Wednesday afternoon, players from the North Carolina women's basketball team shifted their attention to preparing for Halloween. The team headed to UNC Children's Hospital, where they helped kids get ready to leave being patients behind for a day and instead become Harry Potter, Captain America or Wonder Woman. (GoHeels.com)
The ACC’s current 15 member schools have captured eight of the last 19 NCAA Championships and 17 overall, including Virginia’s first title in 2019. Current ACC member schools have combined for 64 Final Four appearances and a national-best 639 NCAA Tournament wins. League teams have combined to win an NCAA-record 74 NCAA Tournament games over the past five seasons, highlighted by a 68-29 mark versus teams from outside the conference.
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Smith's early teams were not nearly as successful as McGuire's had been. His first team went only 8–9 as it turned out, the last losing season UNC would suffer for 41 years. His first five teams never won more than 16 games. This grated on a fan base used to winning; in 1965 some of them even hanged him in effigy. However, Smith would go on to take the Tar Heels to a reign of championships and national dominance. When he retired in 1997, Smith's 879 wins were the most ever for any NCAA Division I men's basketball coach, and his 77.61% winning percentage ninth best. During his tenure, North Carolina won or shared 17 ACC regular season titles and won 13 ACC Tournaments. They went to the NCAA tournament 27 times–including 23 in a row from 1975 to 1997–appeared in 11 Final Fours, and won NCAA national tournament titles in 1982 and 1993. They also won the NIT in 1971. The 1982 National Championship team was led by James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and a young Michael Jordan. The 1993 National Championship team starred Donald Williams, George Lynch and Eric Montross. While at North Carolina, Smith helped promote desegregation by recruiting the University's first African American scholarship basketball player Charlie Scott.
“There is always tremendous excitement surrounding ACC Basketball, and that’s no different as we look ahead to the 2019-20 season,” said ACC Commissioner John Swofford. “The league is coming off its third national championship in the last five seasons, and the collective success by our programs is second-to-none. In addition to the anticipation for the season to begin, this year also marks the debut of ACC Basketball on ACC Network which will provide our fans with even more opportunities to follow all of our programs.”
North Carolina has been ranked in the Top 25 in the AP Poll an all-time record 908 weeks, has beaten #1 ranked teams a record 14 times, has the most consecutive 20-win seasons with 31, and the most consecutive top-3 ACC regular season finishes with 37. North Carolina has ended the season ranked in the Top-25 of the AP Poll 50 times and in the Top-25 of the Coaches' Poll 52 times. Further, the Tar Heels have finished the season ranked #1 in the AP Poll 5 times and ranked #1 in Coaches' Poll 6 times. In 2008, the Tar Heels received the first unanimous preseason #1 ranking in the history of either the Coaches' Poll or the AP Poll. In 2012, ESPN ranked North Carolina #1 on its list of the 50 most successful programs of the past 50 years.
The UNC women's basketball team will host Wingate Saturday for an exhibition game and final tune-up before the start of the regular season. Tipoff at Carmichael Arena is 2 p.m. and there is no charge for admission. The Tar Heels, under coach Courtney Banghart, open the season Thursday, when Western Carolina visits Carmichael for a 6 p.m. tipoff. (GoHeels.com)
Guthridge retired in 2000 and North Carolina turned to Matt Doherty, the head coach at Notre Dame and a player on the 1982 championship team, to lead the Tar Heels. Doherty had little success while at North Carolina. In his first season, the Heels were ranked #1 in the polls in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule and finished with a 26–7 record. The bottom fell out the following year, as the Tar Heels finished the season with a record of 8–20, the worst season in school history. They missed postseason play entirely for the first time since the 1965–66 season (including a record 27 straight NCAA Tournament appearances) and finished with a losing record for the first time since 1962 (Dean Smith's first year as coach). They also finished 4–12 in the ACC—only the program's second losing ACC record ever. The 12 losses were six more than the Tar Heels had ever suffered in a single season of ACC play, and placed them in a tie for 7th place—the program's first finish below fourth place ever. The season also saw the end of UNC's run of 31 straight 20-win seasons and 35 straight seasons of finishing third or higher in the ACC.
From the ACC's inception in 1953 to 2001, the Tar Heels did not finish worse than a tie for fourth place in ACC play. By comparison, all of the ACC's other charter members finished last at least once in that time. From 1965 to 2001, they did not finish worse than a tie for third, and for the first 21 of those years they did not finish worse than a tie for second.
North Carolina is still alive in the recruitment for five-star shooting guard Bryce Thompson, one of the top uncommitted recruits in the 2020 class. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native cut his list down to seven teams in August. On Sunday, Thompson cut his list one more time as he trimmed it down to four finalists: UNC, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. (Keeping It Heel)