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 a clip from Michael Jordan's time as a player in Chapel Hill, the former North Carolina guard and six-time NBA Champion speaks on the Carolina family. "It’s just like a family and everybody contributes to the win. They can come off the bench and contribute or stay on the bench and cheer and so that is contributing to win," Jordan said. (Inside Carolina)
The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Monday the 50 men's college basketball players to watch during the season-long competition for the 2020 Naismith Trophy Men's Player of the Year honor. University of North Carolina freshman point guard Cole Anthony is on the list. The Naismith Trophy will be awarded during the Final Four in Atlanta on April 5, 2020. (GoHeels.com)
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 most schools decided to disband their J.V. squads, North Carolina's athletic department opted to keep the team so that non-scholarship students were given the chance to play basketball for UNC. North Carolina also uses their J.V. team as a way for varsity assistant coaches to gain experience as head coaches, such as the current coach, Hubert Davis. Roy Williams was a J.V. coach for eight years before he was hired at Kansas.
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. 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.
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’s championship aspirations begin and end with Cole Anthony. The blue-chip freshman has the talent to go first overall in next year’s NBA draft. Anthony is one of the best players in the country. North Carolina has thrived the last few years by having a number of impressive contributors. This season might look more like a one-man show. (The Ringer)
The following year, the Tar Heels were ranked #6 in the AP preseason poll, having lost Paige and Johnson but retaining 2016 ACC Tournament MVP Joel Berry II as well as forwards Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks. After early season losses to Indiana and Kentucky, the Tar Heels won their 31st ACC regular season title. Despite never being ranked #1 in the AP Poll and losing to Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, the Heels earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, where they advanced to their record 20th Final Four and 11th NCAA tournament title game. They beat Gonzaga 71-65 to give Williams his 3rd national championship, surpassing mentor Dean Smith for most NCAA tournament championships at Carolina, and behind only John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, and Adolph Rupp for most NCAA tournament championships overall. Just as in the previous year, the Tar Heels finished with a 33-7 overall record and a 14-4 ACC record.
In 2015-2016, led by seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, the Tar Heels earned their 30th ACC regular season title, 18th ACC tournament title, and 19th Final Four.[circular reference] They also appeared in their 10th NCAA title game, in which they lost on a buzzer beater to Villanova, despite Marcus Paige's dramatic three-pointer to tie the game with 4.7 seconds left.[circular reference] The Tar Heels finished with a 33-7 overall record and a 14-4 ACC record.
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)