The 2010–2011 Tar Heels, with the addition of Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, and Reggie Bullock, eighth in the preseason polls, struggled out the gates, starting with a 2-2 record, the worst start since the 2001–02 season. After losses to Illinois and Texas, the Tar Heels fell out of the rankings. The losses of senior Will Graves, to dismissal, and Larry Drew II, to transfer and also the unexpected off-season transfers of David and Travis Wear did not help matters. However, the Tar Heels improved greatly during the conference season, finishing first in the ACC regular season with a 14-2 record. Williams was named Conference Coach of the Year for his efforts of getting his team to work through the adversity to finish strong in the regular season.[44] Also during the season, the term Tar Heel Blue Steel was coined, referencing the Tar Heel men's basketball walk-ons. The term was started by one of the players, Stewart Cooper, in hopes that it would be a replacement for "walk-ons" and other less catchy names and soon enough Roy Williams caught on, as well as the rest of the Tar Heel Nation. North Carolina lost to Duke in the ACC Tournament Finals and made a significant run in the NCAA Tournament until they were eliminated in the Elite Eight by Kentucky, finishing with a 29-8 record.[45]
Despite the turnaround from the year before and the NIT appearance, at the end of the season Matt Doherty was replaced as head coach by Roy Williams. Williams had served as an assistant to Smith for 11 years before leaving to spend the first 15 years of his Hall of Fame head coaching career leading Kansas to 9 conference regular season championships and four Final Fours before Smith convinced him to return home. It was hoped that Williams would restore a measure of stability to the program. Williams was UNC's third coach in six years. The two previous to Guthridge (McGuire and Smith) had covered a 45-year period.
North Carolina has been ranked in the Top 25 in the AP Poll an all-time record 908 weeks,[13] has beaten #1 ranked teams a record 14 times,[14] has the most consecutive 20-win seasons with 31,[15] and the most consecutive top-3 ACC regular season finishes with 37.[15] 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[16] or the AP Poll.[17] In 2012, ESPN ranked North Carolina #1 on its list of the 50 most successful programs of the past 50 years.[18]
The Tar Heels own several notable streaks in the history of college basketball. They appeared in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament (NIT) every year from 1967 to 2001. This includes 27 straight appearances in the NCAA tourney from 1975 (the first year that competition allowed more than one team from a conference to get a guaranteed bid) to 2001—the longest such streak in tournament history until it was broken by Kansas in March 2017. The Tar Heels also notched 37 straight winning seasons from 1964 to 2001, the third-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind UCLA's streak of 54 consecutive winning seasons from 1948 to 2001, and Syracuse's currently active streak of 46 seasons from 1971 to date. They also finished .500 or better for 39 years in a row from 1962 (Dean Smith's second year) to 2001, the third-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind Kentucky's streak of 61 consecutive seasons from 1926 to 1988 (the Wildcats were barred from playing in 1952–53 due to NCAA violations) and UCLA's 54-season streak.

Despite the turnaround from the year before and the NIT appearance, at the end of the season Matt Doherty was replaced as head coach by Roy Williams. Williams had served as an assistant to Smith for 11 years before leaving to spend the first 15 years of his Hall of Fame head coaching career leading Kansas to 9 conference regular season championships and four Final Fours before Smith convinced him to return home. It was hoped that Williams would restore a measure of stability to the program. Williams was UNC's third coach in six years. The two previous to Guthridge (McGuire and Smith) had covered a 45-year period.

Dean Smith was widely known for his idea of "The Carolina Way," in which he challenged his players to, “Play hard, play smart, play together.”[51] “The Carolina Way” was an idea of excellence in the classroom, as well as on the court. In Coach Smith's book, The Carolina Way, former player Scott Williams said, regarding Dean Smith, “Winning was very important at Carolina, and there was much pressure to win, but Coach cared more about our getting a sound education and turning into good citizens than he did about winning.“ [52] "The Carolina Way" was evident in many practices the players would implement, including pointing to the player who assisted in a basket, giving him credit as an act of selflessness. This "Thank the Passer" practice is used throughout basketball today.[53]

After bringing in one of the top 5 incoming classes for the 2002–2003 season, the Tar Heels started the season by knocking off a top 5 Kansas team and going on to win the Preseason NIT and returning to the AP top 25. North Carolina went on to finish the season 17–15, but a 6-10 record in ACC play kept them out of the NCAA Tournament. Doherty led the Tar Heels to the third round of the NIT, where they ended their season with a loss to Georgetown.
^ The Helms Foundation named its own national college basketball champion for each year from 1936 through 1982. The foundation also retroactively awarded championships from 1901 through 1935. While the 1924 team was undefeated, they did not play a single opponent from north of the Mason–Dixon line; indeed, intersectional play would not start on a regular basis for another decade. However, the 1924 Tar Heels did beat the Kentucky Wildcats that season in a battle of what most considered the two best teams in the nation.
It’s the first season in many years where the UNC women’s basketball team is being led by a different head coach. As the players adjust to new leadership, head coach Courtney Banghart is settling into her new position and school too. Banghart led the team’s first official practice with lots of energy and passionate instruction last month. (Chapelboro.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.[38] 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.
Ziaire Williams on UNC: "As far as culture and atmosphere, just the city as a whole, they have everything. The fans are amazing, great support system and of course Roy Williams. He’s a Hall of Fame coach, arguably one of the best to ever do it. Every time I go there it has always been fun. I don’t have a timetable. I don’t want to feel pressured by a certain date." (247 Sports)
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