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The University of North Carolinamarker men's basketball program is a successful college basketball program, considered to be "one of the dominant basketball teams in NCAA history." The Tar Heels have won five NCAA tournament championships in 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009, and were retroactively named the national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation for their undefeated season in 1924. They have also won 17 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles, and 27 Atlantic Coast Conference regular season titles (including an Atlantic Coast Conference record 17 outright Regular Season Championships). The program is well-known for its famous alumni, such as Michael Jordan, coaching history, and a rivalry with Duke (a team located only eight miles away in Durham, North Carolinamarker). The rivalry is widely regarded as one of the most intense in all of sports.

From the Tar Heels' first season in 1910-11 through the 2008-09 season, the Tar Heels amassed a 73.8% all-time winning percentage (second highest in NCAA Division I history), winning 1,984 games and losing 703 games in 99 seasons. The Tar Heels also have the most consecutive 20-win seasons, with 31 seasons from the 1970–71 seasons through 2000–2001 season. On January 21, 2007, North Carolina became only the second college basketball program to reach 1,900 wins in its history. The University of Kentucky was the only previous school to reach this mark. The Kansas Jayhawks have since become the third team to reach 1,900 wins.

The Tar Heels have won the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament five times, have appeared in the NCAA finals eight times, have participated in a record 18 NCAA Final Fours, have made it into the NCAA tournament 41 times (tied for second-most all-time), and hold the record for all-time NCAA Tournament victories (100). North Carolina also won the National Invitation Tournament tournament in 1971, has appeared in two NIT Semifinals, and has made five appearances in the NIT Tournament. Additionally, the team has been the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament 13 times, the latest being in 2009 (most #1 seeds all-time), has been ranked in the top 25 AP Poll 703 times (1st all-time), has beaten #1 teams a record 12 times, has the most consecutive 20-win seasons, with 31, and has the most consecutive top-3 ACC finishes with 37. North Carolina has had a top twenty-five final ranking among Division I schools 42 times as ranked by the Associated Press and 44 times as ranked by the Coaches Poll. In five instances the North Carolina Tar Heels have ended the season with a number one ranking in the Associated Press, and the North Carolina Tar Heels have also been ranked number one five times at the end of the season by the Coaches' Poll. In 2008 the Tar Heels received the first unanimous preseason #1 ranking in the history of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, as well as the first unanimous preseason #1 ranking in the history of the Associated Press Poll.

Team history

Early years

North Carolina played its first basketball game against Virginia Christianmarker, on January 27, 1910, a 42–21 win for North Carolina. Since then the Tar Heels have amassed an all-time 1,990-704 (.738) record. North Carolina's 1,990 wins are second all time, behind the University of Kentucky's 1,995 wins.

In 1921, North Carolina joined the Southern Conference. The 1924 Tar Heels squad went 26–0 and was retroactively awarded the national championship by the Helms Athletic Foundation in 1936. Overall, the Tar Heels played 32 seasons in the Southern Conference from 1921 to 1953. During that period they won 304 games and lost 111 for a winning percentage of 73.3%. The Tar Heels were winners of the regular season for nine times and won the Southern Conference Championships eight times.

Under Frank McGuire (1953–1961)

In 1953, North Carolina split from the Southern Conference and became a founding member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Tar Heels won their first NCAA Championship under coach Frank McGuire in 1957, which was led by Lennie Rosenbluth and several other transplants from the New York Citymarker area. C.D. Chesley, a Washington, D.C.marker television producer, piped the 1957 championship game in Kansas Citymarker to a hastily-created network of stations across North Carolina, which helped prove pivotal in basketball becoming a craze in the state. The 1957 National Championship game versus Wilt Chamberlain's Kansas Jayhawks was the only triple overtime contest in championship history.

In 1960, the Tar Heels were placed on NCAA probation for "improper recruiting entertainment" of basketball prospects--to date, the only time any sport at UNC has been sanctioned by the NCAA. As a result, they were barred from the 1961 NCAA tournament and also withdrew from the 1961 ACC Tournament. Following the season, Chancellor William Aycock forced McGuire to resign. As a replacement, Aycock selected one of McGuire's assistants, Kansas alum Dean Smith.

Under Dean Smith (1961–1997)

Smith coached the Tar Heels from 1961 to 1997 and brought an unprecedented level of success to the team. When Smith retired in 1997, he had the most wins ever of any NCAA Division I men's basketball coach with 879 wins, and the 9th highest winning percentage (77.6%)During Smith's time as head coach, North Carolina won the ACC regular season championship 17 times, won the ACC tournament 13 times, won the NIT in 1971, went to the NCAA tournament 27 times, appeared in 11 Final Fours, and won two NCAA national tournament titles, in 1982 and 1993. The 1982 National Championship team was led by James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and a young Michael Jordan. The 1993 National Championship team starred Donald Williams, George Lynch and Eric Montross. While at North Carolina, Smith helped promote desegregation by recruiting the University’s first African American scholarship basketball player Charlie Scott.

Under Bill Guthridge (1997–2000)

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. In his three seasons as head coach Guthridge led the Tar Heels to the NCAA Final Four twice, in the 1998 tournament and again in the 2000 tournament. Carolina reached the Final Four in 2000 as an 8-seed, their lowest seeding in a Final Four appearance.

Under Matt Doherty (2000–2003)

Guthridge retired in 2000 and North Carolina turned to Matt Doherty, the head coach at Notre Dame and a player on the 1982 championship team, to lead the Tar Heels. Doherty had little success while at Carolina. In his first season, the Heels were ranked #1 in the polls in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule and finished with a 26–7 record. But Doherty's second season was the worst in recent history as the Tar Heels finished the season with a record of 8–20, missing postseason play entirely for the first time since the 1965–66 season (including a record 27 straight NCAA Tournament appearances) and finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1962 (Dean Smith's first year as coach). They also finished 4–12 in the ACC—only the program's second losing ACC record ever. The 12 losses were six more than the Tar Heels had ever suffered in a single season of ACC play, and placed them in a tie for 7th place—the program's first finish below fourth place ever. The season also saw the end of UNC's run of 31 straight 20-win seasons and 35 straight seasons of finishing third or higher in the ACC. 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. Carolina went on to finish the season 17–15, missing the NCAA tournament. Matt Doherty led the Tar Heels to the third round of the NIT where they ended their season with a loss to Georgetown.

Under Roy Williams (2003–present)

Despite the turnaround from the year before and the NIT appearance, at the end of the season Matt Doherty was replaced as head coach by Roy Williams, the longtime coach at Kansas--and before then, an assistant to Smith for 11 years.

Roy Williams' first season was a moderate success. The Tar Heels finished 19–11 and were ranked in a final media poll for the first time in three years. They returned to the NCAA tournament and were ousted in the second round by Texas. The following year the Tar Heels won their fourth NCAA title and Williams' first as a head coach. After winning the championship, Williams had to deal with the departure of the team's top seven scorers. Most thought that 2005–06 would be a down season for Williams, but the Tar Heels proved to be surprisingly successful in part due to the help of the freshman Tyler Hansbrough. Williams was named Coach of the Year for his ability to turn around such a new team to such a high level of success. The Tar Heels have since added two other ACC titles to their ledger, sweeping the regular season and tournament titles in 2007 and 2008. The 2008 ACC Tournament was the first time North Carolina has ever won the ACC Tournament without defeating at least one in-state rival during the tournament. The Kansas Jayhawks defeated North Carolina in the national semifinals of the 2008 NCAA tournament. On April 6, 2009 Williams and the Tar Heels won their fifth NCAA title by defeating Michigan State at Ford Fieldmarker in Detroitmarker. The title game victory capped off one of the most dominant runs in NCAA Tournament history; the Tar Heels won all six 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 a possible 240) through the entire tournament. Wayne Ellington was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, the sixth Tar Heel so honored.


The Tar Heels own several notable streaks in the history of college basketball. They appeared in either the NCAA Tournament or National Invitation Tournament (NIT) every year from 1967 to 2001. This includes 27 straight appearances in the NCAA tourney from 1975 (the first year that competition allowed more than one team from a conference to get a guaranteed bid) to 2001--the longest such streak in tournament history. The Tar Heels also notched 37 straight winning seasons from 1964 to 2001--the second-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind only UCLA's streak of 54 consecutive winning seasons from 1948 to 2002. Presently, the streak of consecutive tournament appearances is the only one that is seriously threatened; as of the 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament by Arizona, which has appeared in 25 straight NCAA Tournaments since 1985. The Kansas Jayhawks have the second-longest active streak, with 20 straight appearances.

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. From 1965 onward, they did not finish worse than a tie for third, and from 1965 to 1986 they did not finish worse than a tie for second. Neither of these streaks have been seriously threatened by another ACC team; during this time the ACC's other six charter members finished first at least once and last at least once, and only Clemson failed to win a tournament title.

All of these streaks ended in the 2001–02 season, when the Tar Heels finished 8–20 on the season under coach Matt Doherty. They also finished tied for 7th in conference play, behind Florida State and Clemson--only their second losing conference record ever (the first being in the ACC's inaugural season).

Additionally, the Tar Heels hold an interesting and unique record in terms of a recurrent head-to-head rivalry. Since the first game in 1926 at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels have won 54 consecutive home games against Clemson, which has never beaten the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, current as of the 2008-09 season. The 54th consecutive win is an NCAA record. They are also the only program to have never played a Thursday game in the ACC Tournament since the tournament expanded to a four-day format (During the years the conference had seven or eight members, the tournament was played Thursday, Friday and Saturday).

Honored and retired jerseys

Retired basketball jerseys
Number Player Year
NC Jack Cobb 1926
20 George Glamack 1941
10 Lennie Rosenbluth 1957
12 Phil Ford 1978
52 James Worthy 1983
23 Michael Jordan 1984
33 Antawn Jamison 1998

Michael Jordan's retired North Carolina jersey hanging in the Dean Smith Center
Forty-three former North Carolina men's basketball players are honored in the Smith Center with banners representing their numbers hung from the rafters. Of the 43 honored jerseys, seven are retired.

To have his jersey honored, a player must have met one of the following criteria:

To have his jersey retired, a North Carolina player must win a widely recognized national player of the year award. Men's basketball player must win one of the following six awards:

Seven players (including Jack Cobb, whose jersey did not have a number) have had their jerseys retired. Tyler Hansbrough's number 50 will be the eighth jersey to be retired, as in the 07-08 season he won all 6 of the major awards required to have ones jersey retired.

Notable players and coaches


National Coach of the Year:

ACC Coach of the Year:

National Player of the Year:

ACC Player of the Year:

ACC Rookie of the Year:

UNC junior varsity basketball team

The UNC junior varsity basketball team was originally used at Carolina as freshmen teams because freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team until the NCAA granted freshmen eligibility in the 1970s.

After most schools decided to disband their J.V. squads, Carolina's athletic department opted to keep the team so that non-scholarship students were given the chance to play basketball for UNC. Carolina also uses their J.V. team as a way for varsity assistant coaches to gain experience as head coaches. Roy Williams was a J.V. coach for eight years before he was hired at Kansas.

Students at UNC are only allowed to play on the team for two years, and then they are given a chance to try out for the varsity. The J.V. team also serves as a way for coaches to evaluate players for two years on the J.V. so they will better know what to expect when they try out for varsity later in their careers.

UNC's J.V. team plays a combination of teams from Division II and III schools, some community colleges, and a few prep schools from around the North Carolina area.


Home venues

Bynum Gymnasium, the first home of the team

See also


  1. #1 in College Sports
  2. - ENDOFCENTURY -'s 10 greatest rivalries
  3. North Carolina Tar Heels Media Guide
  4. Southern Conference Fan Guide
  5. The Helms Foundation named its own national college basketball champion for each year from 1936 through 1982. The foundation also retroactively awarded championships from 1901 through 1935. While the 1924 team was undefeated, they did not play a single opponent from north of the Mason-Dixon Line; indeed, intersectional play would not start on a regular basis for another decade. However, the 1924 Tar Heels did beat the Kentucky Wildcats that season in a battle of what most considered the two best teams in the nation.
  6. Official ACC Web Site
  7. UNC-TV ONLINE: Biographical Conversations With: William Friday - Special Features
  8. LSDBi
  9. This record for the most wins would later be surpassed by Bob Knight in 2007.
  10. ESPN article on Doherty's acceptance of head coach at North Carolina
  11. — 2005 Sportsman of the Year — My Sportsman Choice: Roy Williams — Monday November 28, 2005 1:10PM

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