Bill Guthridge Loved Popcorn and The Cardinals

May13/ 2015

I get weird thoughts when someone I know dies or when JFK died in 1963.   I hope “they” spell Bill Guthridge’s name correctly in his tributes.  No “e” after the “h”.

When JFK was killed in Nov 1963, I immediately thought of how that affected Vaughn Meader.  There’s a real trivia question for you.  Sure you can google it…. or simply say “the ahhh rubber ducky is mine” in a thick Boston accent.BillGuth

I was “there” when Bill Guthridge arrived at UNC in 1966.   He did something that A LOT of other basketball coaches have done over the past 50 years – he replaced Larry Brown. 

Larry Brown coached the UNC freshmen team in 65-67 then “left” for the first of many times.   Larry left to play for New Orleans Buccaneers in the ABA.

I remember Bill GUTHRIDGE’s droll sense of humor….. his love of popcorn and that he was a passionate St Louis Cardinals fan.   After I left UNC I followed his career as DES’ Sancho Panza / Tonto.  I last spoke to him 7-8 years ago at The Jimmy V.  He was “aging fast” even then.

All the tributes and media epitaphs will correctly chronicle his loyalty to Coach Smith and his contentment to stay where he was “happy”.   What great Life advice that is…. if one is fortunate to find an occupational situation where one is indeed “happy”.

That Coach Guthridge’s passing so closely follows Coach Smith’s is an odd coincidence if the word “odd” even applies anymore with Carolina Athletics.   I think Carolina ThelmaandLouiseAthletics passed “odd” and “strange” more than several years ago and hasn’t slowed down in its fateful journey to wherever it’s headed.    Possibly like Thema & Louise’s convertible and the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps the highest compliment to Bill Guthridge is the story of his succeeding Dean Smith in 1997 upon DES’ abrupt retirement in October.   I have discussed this with various “insiders” over the past 12 years and no one refutes it so I take it as factual.

DES engineered “Call Me Dickie’s” appointment to succeed the Eeeeevil John Swofford as UNC AD in early 1997.   It was important to Coach Smith that he would have full control over the timing of his approaching retirement AND naming his successor.   With Baddour as AD (??) there was certainly no chance of any interference at all.   Coach Smith was only 66 when he retired and there were no reported health issues.

By comparison, Roy is now 65 and Coach K is 68.   Neither appears ready to retire although Roy’s future may not be his to control.

Coach Smith’s abrupt retirement in October 1997 has been linked to losing Stackhouse & Wallace as sophomores.  They were the first “two & dones” Smith had.   College basketball / sports was entering a new era of  the Internet and sports talk radio was exploding.   ESPN was becoming enormous.   How Coach Smith ran UNC Basketball so close to his vest and his “team as family” concept was over and he knew it.  Also there was one other factor……

At UNC, retirement pensions are calculated based on one’s last three years salary.   Bill Guthridge was well-paid as DES’ assistant by late 1990s standards but not the $1,000,000+/year he would be paid as Head Coach his last three years.   That significant salary increase from 1997-2000 assured him a much more comfortable retirement.   Absolutely no one should / would object to that.  He (BG) deserved it.

He would coach for the three years to establish his higher pension level then ……. Roy would return from Kansas and a new era would begin in the most competent of hands.   That was how it was SUPPOSE to happen. …… “best laid plans of even legends go oft aglee….”.

Dean left Bill with a loaded roster of Jamison, Carter et al and got to two Final Fours in three years but could not restock the roster.   Recruiting was “difficult” as blue-chippers knew Bill was “a short-timer”.   Neil Fingleton came but didn’t stay very long….. although Neil Fingleton himself was VERY long.

Roy, of course, screwed the pooch when he said “I’m staying” to a cheering JayhawkNation.   Everything went haywire in Chapel Hill.   UNC Basketball immediately became a colossal trainwreck.  Dean was gone.  Bill Guthridge was gone…..  and Dean’s hand-picked choice as AD – Dickie – was “in charge”…… YEEEE HA!

Matt Doherty was Dickie’s “gotta hire somebody” choice; giving Carolina two coaches in a row whose last names would be continually misspelled.   Carolina fans tend to do better with simpler names like “Smith” and “Williams” and “Brown” and “Davis”.   I have no idea why that is.

Only Job (the one in the Bible) could fully appreciate the past twelve months for Roy Williams.   He has lost three of his closest friends and confidants – Ted Seagraves – DES – Bill Guthridge.  It isn’t like Roy had that long a list of close friends to begin with.   His wife has health issues.  And, of course, there’s “the junk” as Roy likes to call his part of The Great Unpleasantness.   If Roy’s program gets “clobbered” as ABCers fervently hope…. Roy’s coaching future will be murky at best.

“Reliable inside sources” are still predicting INCOMING from the NCAA sooner rather than later.

Somewhat Related…. a new TGU video is just out – “AFTER Schooled” – which has lengthy interviews with Mary Willingham, Judge Bob Orr and Devon Ramsey.   Their comments are very rational with no rancor or animosity.   No great new revelations or smoking guns but I recommend you CHECK IT OUT.


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