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.
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.
Donovan Johnson, the 6-foot-7 wing from Hillcrest Prep (AZ), will visit North Carolina this weekend for his third official visit. He has no other visits planned. Ziaire Williams, the 6-foot-7 small forward from Sierra Canyon (CA), visits Arizona this weekend for his third official visit. And 7-foot center Saba Gigiberia will visit Georgia Tech for his second official visit. (Zag's Blog)