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Carolina Basketball History

The University of North Carolina has always possessed one of college basketball's most storied histories and the tradition becomes richer with each passing season. Through the decades, with the seemingly endless flow of talented players to go along with the winningest coach in college basketball history, the Carolina basketball program continues to roll onward.

Carolina's 88 seasons in the intercollegiate ranks have produced an overall record of 1,709 victories and 599 losses, making the Tar Heel program the second-winningest alltime in total victories. The University of Kentucky has 1,720 victories in 95 seasons. Carolina became the first university to hit the 1,600-win plateau with its 90-67 victory over Pittsburgh on Nov. 29, 1994, in the Smith Center.

Carolina's winning percentage of .741 ranks second alltime among schools that have played at least 25 seasons at the NCAA Division I level. Only Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas and UNLV have played at least 25 years and won more than 70 percent of their games.

Only nine of the 88 Tar Heel teams have suffered through losing seasons, and no Carolina coach has ever left the position with a cumulative losing mark. The closest to the .500 mark was Nat Cartmell, Carolina's first coach, who went 25-24 in four seasons. From 1911 through 1952, the UNC program had 13 different head coaches, with none staying for more than six seasons. Carolina has only had three head coaches in the last 46 years n Frank McGuire for nine years, Dean Smith from 1961-62 to 1996-97 and Bill Guthridge beginning in October 1997.

The Roots of a Successful Program

The first varsity team played at North Carolina during the 1910-11 season. Basketball clubs had originally been a part of physical education classes at the University, but student Marvin Ritch led the drive with school officials to start an organized varsity team. Nat Cartmell, UNC's track and field coach, who was internationally known in his own right as a sprinter, coached that first team in 1911.

By the time the team was organized, Carolina did not schedule its first game until January 27, 1911, when it defeated Virginia Christian, 42-21, in Chapel Hill. The team played its games in Bynum Gymnasium, now the site of the University cashier's office. Carolina went 7-4 that first season, playing the likes of Tennessee, Virginia, Wake Forest, Davidson, the YMCA teams from Durham and Charlotte and the Woodberry Forest School of Virginia. At the time, a crowd of 50 spectators for a game was considered enormous.

Cartmell ended up coaching the Tar Heels for four seasons. His 1912 squad finished only 4-5, but several thousand fans came to see the Tar Heels play Virginia Tech at the Raleigh Auditorium, a sign that interest in and fan support of the game was growing quickly in the Carolinas.

Charles Doak became the program's head coach in 1915. His 1916 team recorded a 12-6 ledger, the best record for any team during the first decade of the sport on campus. Doak had served as the Tar Heels' baseball coach before being assigned to take over the basketball coaching duties as well.

In 1917, Carolina recorded its first victory over then arch-rival Virginia after eight previous losses. That Tar Heel team was led by George Tennent, who captained both the 1917 and 1918 teams. Luther Hodges, who later served as governor of North Carolina from 1957-61 and was the Secretary of Commerce under President John Kennedy, was a substitute player on the 1917 team. Beginning with that 1917 season, Howell Peacock coached the team for three years, compiling a 23-14 mark.

In 1920, Fred Boye took over as the head coach at Carolina, staying two years and compiling a 19-17 ledger. The 1922 squad played without an official head coach, but nevertheless compiled a 15-6 record. Carolina went to Atlanta that season and swept the first-ever Southern Conference Tournament championship, winning five games in five days. The Heels captured the title with a 40-26 win over Mercer in the finals. The Southern Conference had been founded the previous summer with an initial membership of 22 schools. The 1922 squad was led by Cartwright Carmichael, who was then a sophomore. He went on to become one of Carolina's alltime great players. He became UNC's first All-America in any sport in both 1923 and 1924 and he was an All-Southern Conference pick from 1922 through 1924.

Celebrating Carolina's First National Championship

The five-year period beginning in 1922 was actually a glorious one for Carolina despite the fact the Tar Heels played with no coach during the 1922 and 1923 seasons and with a different head coach in each of the following three years. But with incredibly talented players on hand, Carolina went 96-17 in that five-year span and won four of five Southern Conference championships as well as the national championship in 1924.

The 1923 team set the stage for that magnificent e24 squad by going 15-1, losing only a 34-32 thriller to Ole Miss in the Southern Conference tournament final.

The e24 team proved to be something very special indeed. Led by Jack Cobb, Carmichael and Bill Dodderer, it rolled to a 26-0 record and was named the national champion by the Helms Foundation. Carolina beat Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Alabama to capture the Southern Conference championship.

Carolina's nine-man 1924 squad played for the first time in the Indoor Athletic Center, better known around campus as the Tin Can, a structure which existed until the late 1970s. It was razed to clear land for what is now the Robert Allison Fetzer Gymnasium on the UNC campus. Norman Shephard coached the Tar Heels in 1924 in what would be his only season as head coach. He left the following year to pursue business ventures abroad.

After being an All-Southern Conference selection in 1924, Monk McDonald took over as the team's head coach the following season. Led again by the magnificent Cobb, the Tar Heels finished 20-5 and won another Southern Conference crown by whipping Tulane 36-28 in the finals. A year later, Carolina had yet another new head coach in Harlan Sanborn as the e26 team compiled a solid 20-5 mark. That team was led by Cobb, who was named the National Player of the Year by the Helms Foundation, and by Dodderer, who was named All-Southern Conference for the third year in a row.

Cobb, who averaged 15 points per game, a total practically unheard of in that day, was named an All-America for the third successive year. One of the highlights of the year was the crowd of thousands which gathered at Memorial Hall to hear a telegraphic play-by-play of the Southern Conference championship game from Atlanta as UNC downed Mississippi State, 38-23.

James Ashmore began an impressive five-year coaching stint with the Tar Heels in 1927. His teams were led by players like Billy Morris, Puny Harper, Bunn Hackney and Rufus Hackney. Ashmore's teams combined for an 80-37 mark during his tenure, but they never won the Southern Conference championship n in fact they never reached the finals.

The Southern Conference Realigns

Norman Shepard's brother, George "Bo" Shepard, took over as head coach in 1932. He quickly catapulted Carolina back into national prominence. The "Charlotte Connection" provided many of the best players for UNC at the time because of the strong high school and YMCA programs in that part of the state.

Guard Tom Alexander and forward Virgil Weathers, both All-Southern Conference choices, led the e32 team to a 16-5 mark as Carolina lost, 26-24, in the Southern Conference final to Georgia at Raleigh, the new site of the conference tournament. After the e32 season, the Southern Conference lost 13 schools which went on to form what is now the Southeastern Conference. That turn of events left 10 schools in the Southern Conference.

In 1933, Shepard needed a big man for rebounding purposes and to control the jump ball after each score. He found his man in Jack Glace, who hadn't even made his high school squad. The Heels went 12-5 that season and lost a double overtime thriller to South Carolina, 34-32, in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Tournament.

The 1934 Carolina team finished 18-4, being upset by Duke in the Southern Conference tournament after beating the Blue Devils twice in the regular season. Dave McCachren was the captain of that Carolina squad and was the first of four McCachren brothers to play at UNC from 1931-43. Each brother captained the Tar Heel team his senior year, and each was elected president of the UNC athletic association. Besides Dave, Jim, a three-time All-Southern Conference selection, captained the e36 team, Bill captained the e39 squad and George, better known as "Toad," captained the e43 unit.

The 1935 team won the conference championship and compiled a marvelous 23-2 mark in Shepard's last year as head coach. After that season, Shepard stepped down because of health reasons and Walter Skidmore became head coach. Skidmore continued the winning ways in Chapel Hill, leading the 1936 team to a 21-4 record and a Southern Conference title. That 1936 unit was led by Pete Mullis and Andy Bershak, who was also a Carolina football All-America.

Carolina had successful years in 1937 and e38, but failed to win the Southern Conference title either time. However, in 1938, Carolina inaugurated a new home base for its basketball operations as the 5,000-seat Woollen Gymnasium opened and Carolina left the Tin Can to be used for track meets and campus social functions. Then, in 1939, Carolina suffered its first losing campaign in 19 years and Skidmore stepped down as coach. He was replaced for the 1940 season by Bill Lange, then an assistant football coach under Ray Wolf.

Carolina Earns its First NCAA Bid

The 1940 Carolina team proved to be an outstanding one. Led by George Glamack, nicknamed the "Blind Bomber," UNC went 23-3. The 6-6 junior from Johnstown, Pa., could barely see the basket because of impaired vision, but his foul line hook shot was lethal. Glamack became only the third player ever designated as the National Player of the Year by the Helms Foundation on two occasions, winning the honor in both 1940 and e41.

Other stars on the teams of the early 1940s were Paul Severin, who was also a two-time All-America in football, and Bob Rose, an All-Southern Conference player in both 1941 and e42. Glamack averaged 20.6 points per game for the Tar Heels, an amazing statistic given the fact teams only scored in the 40s and 50s during that era.

As in other sports, the World War II years in college basketball were unsettled in nature. The Carolina team lost many players to service obligations during this time n in fact, only one letterman was available for the 1943 team. In 1944, the Tar Heels played 11 contests against service teams. Lange stepped down as coach after the 1944 season with an impressive five-year record of 85-41. Lange's 1941 team was also the first at UNC to make the NCAA Tournament field.

Ben Carnevale took over as head coach in 1945 and the Tar Heels motored to an outstanding 22-6 ledger and the Southern Conference championship. The star of that team was Jim Jordan, who was named a second-team All-America that season.

A Near National Championship

The 1946 team was a truly outstanding one. Led by first-team All-Americas Jordan and John "Hook" Dillon and 6-6 Horace "Bones" McKinney, Carolina made it all the way to the NCAA championship game before losing to Coach Henry Iba's Oklahoma (A&M) State team, 43-40, at Madison Square Garden. McKinney had attended N.C. State before going into the military in World War II, and he resumed his education at Chapel Hill, helping lead the Heels to their 30-5 mark in 1946. Carnevale left after the season was over to take the coaching job at the U.S. Naval Academy. He was replaced by Tom Scott.

At this time, basketball in the South was enjoying unprecedented popularity. N.C. State was becoming a formidable rival for the Tar Heels, and the Southern Conference Tournament was moved to Duke's Indoor Stadium so more fans could attend the postseason classic.

Scott's first team, in 1947, was led by Jim Hamilton and Bob Paxton. It posted a 19-8 record and lost in the conference finals to N.C. State, then coached by the legendary Everett Case. Unfortunately, that would be the second of 15 consecutive losses Carolina suffered at the hands of the Wolfpack over a six-year period.

Scott produced 20-win seasons in both 1948 and e49, but lost thrice to N.C. State each of those campaigns, including heartbreakers in the league tournament.

Tar Heels Turn to Mcguire

The next three seasons produced a trio of mediocre records and Scott resigned after the 1952 season. He was replaced by Frank McGuire, a 38-year-old native of Greenwich Village in New York City. Formerly the coach at St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y., McGuire was successful at luring many outstanding New York basketball stars, the first of whom was Jerry Vayda, to Chapel Hill through his connections to the area.

McGuire's first team, in 1953, proved to be a scrappy unit. It didn't have great talent, but ended up 17-10 and beat N.C. State in Raleigh, breaking the aforementioned six-year losing streak to the Pack. During the offseason, Carolina and seven other schools left the Southern Conference to join what has become America's finest intercollegiate athletic league, the Atlantic Coast Conference. The next two years produced average records n 11-10 in 1954 and 10-11 a year later n but McGuire was building a foundation for future greatness.

Lennie Rosenbluth, from New York City, debuted for the Tar Heels in 1955 as a sophomore and averaged 25.5 points per game. In 1956, a great new class joined holdovers Rosenbluth, Vayda, Tony Radovich and Bob Young. The new sophomore class included Pete Brennan, Tommy Kearns, Joe Quigg, Bob Cunningham and Roy Searcy. That e56 team went 18-5, setting the stage for what happened a year later.

Heels Work Overtime to Claim Second National Title

In 1957, McGuire had a lineup that consisted of the 6-6 Brennan, 6-5 Rosenbluth and 6-9 Quigg on the front line with Cunningham and Kearns in the backcourt. En route to its 32-0 record, Carolina had to avoid a couple of close calls in the regular season n against Duke at home and a double overtime contest with Maryland in College Park. The closest call of all may have come in the ACC Tournament semifinals when the Heels edged Wake Forest, 61-59. Because only the ACC Tournament champion earned an NCAA bid in those days, had the Tar Heels lost to the Deacons, they would not even have been allowed to compete in the national tournament. Once in the NCAAs, however, Carolina swept past three opponents in the East Regional to set up a meeting with Michigan State in the semifinals.

It took three overtimes, but Carolina finally vanquished the Spartans, 74-70. That set up a showdown with Dick Harp's Kansas Jayhawks, led by the great Wilt Chamberlain. At Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium, UNC needed another three overtimes to subdue Kansas, 54-53, on Quigg's two free throws with six seconds to play in the third extra session. Thousands turned out at the Raleigh-Durham Airport to welcome their conquering heroes home the next day. Rosenbluth concluded his brilliant career by being named an All-America, first-team All-ACC for the third straight year and the Helms National Player of the Year.

In 1958, a Carolina team led by All-America and ACC Player of the Year Brennan finished 19-7. Lee Shaffer and Dick Kepley, soon to be Carolina stars in their own right, joined the squad as sophomores. With the exception of the 1957 national championship team, McGuire's 1959 squad may have been the best amongst the nine he coached during his time at UNC. Doug Moe, York Larese and Lou Brown joined the team and Carolina finished 20-5 and qualified for the school's fourth NCAA Tournament appearance.

A year later, Carolina had another outstanding season under McGuire. The Heels finished 18-6 overall and Shaffer was named a first-team All-America.

The 1961 season yielded an outstanding team and a 19-4 record. It was the senior year for Moe, Larese and Kepley. Moe was an All-America that season and together with Larese, they were called the L&M twins. McGuire chose to accept a head coaching offer from the Philadelphia Warriors of the National Basketball Association after the season concluded. His nine-season record at Carolina was a brilliant 164-58. Under McGuire, Carolina went to the NCAA Tournament twice, won five ACC regular-season titles, one ACC Tournament title and the aforementioned national championship.

Chancellor Aycock Makes the Personnel Decision of a Lifetime

The man who stepped into the coaching void was a native Kansan by the name of Dean Edwards Smith. He had been lured to Carolina in 1958 from the U.S. Air Force Academy to be McGuire's top assistant. Carolina Chancellor William Aycock was charged with the duty of finding the successor for the popular McGuire. He entrusted the post to the 30-year-old Smith, who built a program that still is a model for integrity and success in college athletics.

Coach Smith's first team in 1962 compiled an 8-9 record, his only losing season as a head coach. But his players did give him a victory in his first coaching outing, 80-46 over Virginia on December 2, 1961. It would prove to be a harbinger of things to come. After that victory, Smith said, "I've never been as scared in my life."

Billy Cunningham, affectionately known as "The Kangaroo Kid," joined the varsity and became an immediate star in 1962. Averaging 22.7 points and 16 rebounds a game, he helped lead the Tar Heels to a 15-6 record, which included road victories against both Kentucky and Notre Dame. A year later, Cunningham was still awesome, but the Tar Heels' record dipped to 12-12. Help for the future arrived, however, in the form of highly-touted freshman Bob Lewis.

Lewis moved up to the varsity in 1965 and with the All-America Cunningham, the two combined for 46.4 points per game as Carolina went 15-9. Cunningham left Carolina as its all-time leader in rebounds and as one of the most prolific rebounders and scorers in conference history. A two-time All-America and three-time All-ACC selection, he went on to a great professional playing and coaching career, mainly with the Philadelphia 76ers.

For 1966, Cunningham was gone, but Lewis was now joined by soon-to-be superstar Larry Miller. The Tar Heels moved out of Woollen Gymnasium and into 8,800-seat Carmichael Auditorium, which would evolve into one of the most famous arenas in college basketball history. The e66 squad finished only 16-11, but it was obvious greatness was just around the corner.

Three Straight ACC titles, Three Successive Final Fours

The 1967 team proved to be Coach Smith's first truly great squad at Carolina. Lewis and Miller were joined on the varsity by sophomores Rusty Clark, Bill Bunting, Dick Grubar and Joe Brown. The season resulted in a 26-6 ledger, and the Tar Heels finished third in the final United Press International poll and fourth in the Associated Press rankings. The e67 campaign marked the beginning of a string of three successive first-place finishes in the ACC regular-season standings, three straight ACC tournament titles and three consecutive NCAA East Regional championships for Smith and his troops. That's a feat unmatched in ACC history. The e67 squad was characterized by an enthusiastic, gambling defense that would become a trademark of Smith-coached teams.

Lewis graduated after e67, but the great Charlie Scott arrived to take his place in the Carolina lineup as the Heels prepared for the 1968 season. Scott was the first black player on the Carolina varsity and he started from the beginning of his sophomore year. The e68 team was an outstanding one and made it all the way to the NCAA finals before losing to UCLA and Lew Alcindor. The Heels' final record that year was 28-4, the best yet under Smith's tutelage. Miller was both an All-America and the ACC Player of the Year for the second straight year.

Heading into 1969, Miller was gone but the remaining core of those great teams returned. Carolina went 27-5, won the ACC championship for the third straight year and was again in the Final Four, the school's fifth such visit since the NCAA Tournament began in 1939. Scott, Bunting, Clark and Grubar led that team as well as junior guard Eddie Fogler.

The 1970 squad entered that season decimated by graduation. The tremendous seniors of the previous year n Bunting, Clark and Grubar n had graduated. Carolina finished 18-9, buoyed by the addition of sophomores Dennis Wuycik, Bill Chamberlain and Steve Previs, all solid players. Scott was named All-ACC for the third successive year and was a first-team All-America for the second time. Carolina accepted the first of its four NIT bids in history and the 18-9 record remarkably resulted in the last time Carolina failed to win 20 games in a season.

The 1971 team was not expected to do much according to the pre-season ratings, but it rolled up a 26-6 record and won the ACC regular-season title and the National Invitation Tournament championship. Sophomore George Karl moved up to the varsity and formed a great backcourt with Previs. Wuycik was a first-team All-ACC choice and Chamberlain the Most Valuable Player of the NIT as Carolina downed Georgia Tech 84-66 in the finals at Madison Square Garden.

Carolina returned to the NCAA Final Four in 1972 with a 26-5 record. Robert McAdoo, a junior college transfer from Vincennes University, was outstanding for the Heels along with returnees Wuycik, Chamberlain, Karl and Previs. Sixth man Bobby Jones, a 6-8 sophomore, showed great promise for the future. Carolina won five different tournament championships during the course of the season, including the ACC Tournament and NCAA East Regional championships. The Tar Heels were eliminated in the NCAA Final Four by Florida State in the semifinals, 79-75. After the season, McAdoo became the first of seven players under Smith to declare himself eligible for the NBA draft prior to the completion of his eligibility. A year later, he was the NBA Rookie of the Year with the Buffalo Braves.

Carolina returned to the NIT in 1973 and reached the semifinals after losing in the first round of the ACC Tournament. The 25-8 squad was led by the play of Karl and, in the first year freshmen were again eligible to play under NCAA rules, Mitch Kupchak showed signs of greatness inside.

A Remarkable Comeback Against Duke

The 1974 team was led by All-America and All-ACC player Jones. It compiled a 22-6 record but was relegated to a return trip to the NIT even though it was ranked eighth in the final UPI poll. That team featured a freshmen class of Walter Davis, Tommy LaGarde and John Kuester, a group which would lead Carolina back to the Final Four three years later. That season will also be remembered for the astounding comeback the Tar Heels made against Duke at Carmichael Auditorium in the final game of the regular season. Trailing by eight points with 17 seconds to play, the Heels rallied to tie the contest on a 28-foot shot by Davis as time expired. UNC went on to win in overtime, 96-92. The 1974 season also marked the last time Carolina failed to make the NCAA Tournament field, a streak now numbering an NCAA record 22 years.

In 1975, the wonderous Phil Ford arrived on campus as a freshman and had an immediate impact on Carolina basketball fortunes. He became the first freshman under Smith to start the first game of his career, a feat since matched only by Mike O'Koren, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Kenny Smith, J.R. Reid, Pete Chilcutt, Rick Fox, Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison. As a frosh, Ford won the Everett Case Award as Most Valuable Player of the ACC Tournament as Carolina beat defending national champion N.C. State in the finals, 70-66, knocking the Wolfpack out the NCAA Tournament in the process. The Tar Heels had to survive overtime games with Wake Forest and Clemson in the first two rounds of the tournament just to get into the final game. Overall, that Carolina team finished 23-8 and was eliminated in the NCAA East Regional semifinals by Syracuse, which went on to the Final Four.

A year later, in Kupchak's senior season, the Tar Heels had one of their best teams ever under Smith, but it was undone by injuries and bad luck at season's end. First-team All-Americas Kupchak and Ford led the team to a 25-4 mark and a 13-1 ACC slate. But Carolina was upset in the ACC finals by Virginia, giving the Cavaliers their only ACC championship in history, and then UNC lost to Alabama in the first round of the NCAAs with Ford sidelined with a badly sprained ankle. Following the season, Carmichael Auditorium underwent a renovation which increased seating capacity from 8,800 to 10,000. Individual seats were torn out and bleacher seats installed throughout the facility.

The 1977 campaign marked a return to the Final Four for the first time in five years as UNC posted a 28-5 mark. Mid-season knee surgery on LaGarde ended his college career prematurely and then Davis broke his thumb in the ACC Tournament semifinals against N.C. State. Led by Kuester, the Tar Heels persevered and beat Virginia in the tournament finals, 75-69. Carolina used its up-tempo style to perfection in conjunction with the famed four corners offense in scoring NCAA wins over Purdue, Notre Dame, Kentucky and UNLV. All were of the comeback variety save the win over the Wildcats. Ford suffered a hyperextended elbow in the waning moments of the Notre Dame game and played the remainder of the tourney at less than 100 percent. After freshman O'Koren helped the Heels into the finals with 31 points against Vegas, the Tar Heels fell to Marquette, 67-59, in the title game.

The 1978 team had to play minus LaGarde, Davis and Kuester n no easy task. It was Ford's senior year and the Rocky Mount, N.C., native was tapped for National Player-of-the-Year honors by four organizations as UNC finished 23-8. In an emotional Carmichael Auditorium farewell, Ford scored a career-high 34 points as UNC beat Duke 87-83 in one of the most memorable games played in the building, clinching the ACC regular-season championship for the Heels in the process. Ford finished his career as a three-time first-team All-America and as Carolina's alltime leading scorer and assist man. He still holds the scoring record to this day with 2,290 points.

The 1979 squad was not ranked highly in the preseason, but won Smith ACC and National Coach-of-the-Year honors after finishing 23-6. O'Koren, senior defensive wizard Dudley Bradley and sophomore sharpshooter Al Wood led that team. During the regular season, UNC upset eventual national champion Michigan State 70-69 at Carmichael and scored an infamous 70-69 win at N.C. State on Bradley's last-second steal and dunk. Carolina tied for the ACC regular-season championship with Duke and then beat the Blue Devils 71-63 in the ACC Tournament finals as Bradley captured tournament MVP honors. Carolina was upset in the NCAA second round by Penn, which went on to play in the NCAA Final Four.

The 1980 squad was led by a senior class which featured O'Koren, a first-team All-America in 1979 and 1980. The Tar Heels finished 21-8. Other graduating seniors were guards Dave Colescott and John Virgil and centers Rich Yonakor and Jeff Wolf. One of the season's highlights was a 61-57 win at Indiana in the homecoming game for Colescott, a Marion, Ind., native and former Mr. Basketball in the Hoosier State.

The 1981 team would initiate a string of 13 straight Carolina squads which advanced to the Final 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Led by Al Wood and sophomore power forward James Worthy, UNC finished 29-8 and won the ACC Tournament title with one-point wins over Wake Forest and Maryland in the semifinals and finals, respectively. After winning the NCAA West Regional crown, UNC returned to the Final Four in Philadelphia where it avenged two regular-season losses to conference foe Virginia in the semifinals behind Wood's astounding 39-point performance, an NCAA Tournament semifinal game scoring record to this day. Two days later, on the day President Ronald Reagan survived an assassination attempt, UNC was beaten by Indiana in the national championship game.

Worthy's MVP Performance Keys Carolina's Third Championship

The 1981 team proved to be only a prelude to the greatness of the 1982 squad which won the national championship. Preseason rated No. 1, the Tar Heels finished the regular season that way and went on to win the NCAA championship. The squad's 32-2 record equaled the school record for victories in a season as the Tar Heels swept through the ACC Tournament and the NCAA East Regional. There were many heroes on the e82 team. Worthy was named the co-National Player of the Year and he scored a career-high 28 points in UNC's pulsating 63-62 win over Georgetown in the championship game. Center Sam Perkins was a first-team All-America and he was joined in the lineup by point guard Jimmy Black, small forward Matt Doherty and a freshman guard by the name of Michael Jordan. Jordan hit a 16-foot jump shot with 15 seconds left, providing the winning points in the title game, and Worthy sealed the victory with a steal of a Fred Brown pass with five seconds left.

Worthy opted to make himself available for the NBA draft after his junior year and he was chosen as the first pick by the Los Angeles Lakers. Even without Worthy, the Tar Heels returned a strong cast in 1983 with a nucleus featuring Jordan and Perkins. Both players earned first-team All-America honors that year and Jordan was named National Player of the Year by The Sporting News. The Tar Heels finished 28-8 after starting 0-2, the worst-ever start for a Smith-coached team at Carolina. After splitting its first six games of the season, Carolina recovered from the slow start to be the nation's No. 1-ranked team for several weeks in January and February. After tying for the ACC regular-season championship, the Heels made it to the finals of the NCAA East Regional before being upset by Georgia. The highlight of the year was an improbable 64-63 victory over Virginia on February 10, 1983 as No. 1-ranked Carolina rallied from 16 points down with 8:43 to play to beat second-ranked Virginia at Carmichael Auditorium.

In 1984, Smith had one of his best teams ever before it fell victim to a late-season injury bug. At 28-3 overall, the Tar Heels became only the sixth team in ACC history to go through the conference regular-season round-robin undefeated at 14-0. Jordan was named the consensus National Player of the Year and Perkins was named both first-team All-ACC and first-team All-America for the third straight year. Starting point guard Kenny Smith suffered a broken wrist in the LSU game on January 29 and never fully recovered that season. Center Brad Daugherty also suffered a hand injury during the ACC Tournament that hampered his play the rest of the way. That Tar Heel team finished No. 1 nationally in both final polls.

The 1985 team was another of Smith's overachieving teams. Ignored in the pre-season Top 20 polls for the first time in recent memory, UNC went 27-9 that year after losing Perkins and Jordan from the lineup. Carolina tied for the ACC regular-season championship as Daugherty and Kenny Smith had superb years for the Tar Heels. Carolina was eliminated in the finals of the NCAA Southeast Regional at the hands of eventual national champion Villanova.

The Opening of the Dean E. Smith Center

The 1986 unit, led by first-team All-America Daugherty, won its first 21 games en route to a 28-6 mark. The Tar Heels were devastated at season's end by injuries to starters Steve Hale and Joe Wolf and backup center Warren Martin. For the second straight year, UNC was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by the eventual national champion, Louisville. The season was also highlighted by the opening of the Dean E. Smith Center on the Carolina campus on January 18, 1986. The No. 1-ranked Tar Heels celebrated the move into their new 21,572-seat arena by beating No. 3 Duke, 95-92, that day.

The 1987 squad proved to be another of Coach Smith's best teams. Led by a strong senior nucleus which featured All-ACC players Kenny Smith and Wolf, UNC tied the school record for victories in a season with 32 while completing a 32-4 ledger and a No. 2 ranking in the final AP poll. For the second time in four years, UNC finished the ACC regular-season a perfect 14-0. UNC advanced to the NCAA East Regional finals before falling to eventual NCAA finalist Syracuse. Smith capped a brilliant Tar Heel career by surpassing Ford as the school's all-time assist l