William Wallace “Bill” Guthridge died peacefully in Chapel Hill on May 12, 2015.
Born in Parsons, Kansas, to parents Wallace Hunter Guthridge and Elizabeth Stelle Guthridge, Bill was a multisport athlete, playing basketball, football and golf at Parsons High School, and going on to play freshman basketball at Parsons Junior College in 1956. He transferred to Kansas State University in 1957, playing under Naismith and College Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Fred "Tex" Winter. During Bill’s playing career, the Wildcats earned three consecutive Big Seven/Eight Conference titles and went to the 1958 Final Four. Bill graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1960.
His first coaching job was a two-year post as the head basketball coach at Scott City (Kansas) High School. In 1962, he returned to K-State to pursue a master’s degree in physical education and was made graduate assistant coach of the freshman basketball team. He later became a full-time assistant to Winter, helping coach the school to a 62-41 cumulative record from 1964 to 1968. Bill also served as men's golf coach during that time.
After the 1967 season, Bill accepted a position as assistant coach to Dean Smith at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he spent the rest of his coaching career. During his 30 years as an assistant and three years as head coach, UNC won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993), reached 12 Final Fours and won 13 ACC Tournament championships. Bill also was an assistant to Smith on the gold medal-winning 1976 U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team.
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In 1998, Bill became Carolina’s head coach, leading the Tar Heels to the Final Four and ending the season 34-4, an NCAA record for wins by a first-year head coach. That year, he was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year and consensus National Coach of the Year. When his 2000 Tar Heel squad advanced out of the Elite 8, Bill became only the second person to make two Final Four appearances in his first three seasons as a head coach. He posted an 80-28 record in three seasons as Carolina’s head coach.
When he retired in 2000, Bill had been a part of 960 college coaching victories overall at K-State and UNC, including a record 73 NCAA Tournament wins: 71 at UNC and two at K-State. He played or coached in 14 Final Fours, more than anyone in NCAA men’s basketball history. These accomplishments earned Bill induction into both the North Carolina and Kansas Sports Halls of Fame.
His contributions to the University of North Carolina are recognized through The Bill Guthridge Distinguished Professorship in Mathematics and The Bill Guthridge Scholarship in Mathematics.
Bill will be remembered for his basketball knowledge, quick wit and loyalty to UNC Basketball. The UNC Men’s Basketball locker room bears his name in tribute to his devotion to the program.
The Guthridges extend special thanks to the staff of the DuBose Health Center of The Cedars for their outstanding care and concern for Bill, and to James Leak, a close friend who spent mornings with Bill.
Bill is survived by his wife of 45 years, Elise Pettrey “Leesie” Guthridge; sons James A. McWhorter III (Delaine) of Durham and Stuart Mason McWhorter of Chapel Hill; daughter Megan Guthridge Hyatt (Nabeel) of Berkeley, CA; grandchildren Kaden and Liam Hyatt of Berkeley, CA, Max McWhorter of Durham, Nyita Hooper of Boulder, CO, and Laura McWhorter of San Diego, CA; and step-grandchildren Mariana Nepomuceno and Nikolas Nepomuceno of Chapel Hill. He also is survived by his sister, Joan Guthridge Rodkey of Kansas City, and 14 nieces and nephews.
The funeral service will be on Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day) at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church; 304 E. Franklin St. Parking will be available in the Morehead Planetarium lot. A reception will follow.
Those wishing to memorialize Bill may make gifts to the UNC Educational Foundation, 450 Skipper Bowles Dr., Chapel Hill, NC 27599; The Guthridge Library Fund, c/o UNC Libraries, CB 3900, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3900; or Orange Literacy, 200 N. Greensboro St., Carrboro, NC 27510.