The North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball program is the intercollegiate men's basketball team of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won six Men's Basketball Championships (1924, 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005 and 2009) with the 1924 title being retroactively named the national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Premo-Porretta Power Poll for their undefeated 1923-1924 season. North Carolina's five NCAA Tournament Championships are tied for third-most all-time. They have also won 18 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament titles and 31 Atlantic Coast Conference regular season titles (including an Atlantic Coast Conference record 20 outright Regular Season Championships). The program has produced many notable players who went on to play professionally, including three of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Billy Cunningham, Michael Jordan and James Worthy. Many Tar Heel assistant coaches have gone on to become head coaches elsewhere.
From the Tar Heels' first season in 1910–11 through the 2015–16 season, the Tar Heels have amassed a .738 all-time winning percentage (second highest all-time), winning 2,173 games and losing 774 games in 106 seasons. The Tar Heels also have the most consecutive 20-win seasons, with 31 seasons from the 1970–71 season through the 2000–2001 season. On March 2, 2010, North Carolina became the second college basketball program to reach 2,000 wins in its history. The Tar Heels are currently ranked 3rd all time in wins trailing Kentucky by a total of 32 games and Kansas by a total of 10 games. The Tar Heels are one of only four Division I Men's Basketball programs to have ever achieved 2,000 victories. Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke are the other three.
Carolina has played 160 games in the NCAA tournament. The Tar Heels have appeared in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game 10 times, and have been in a record 20 NCAA Tournament Final Fours. The Tar Heels have made it into the NCAA tournament 45 times (second-most all-time), and have amassed a total of 116 victories (second most all-time). North Carolina also won the National Invitation Tournament in 1971, and appeared in two NIT Finals with six appearances in the NIT Tournament. Additionally, the team has been the number one seed in the NCAA Tournament 16 times, the latest being in 2017 (most #1 seeds all-time).
North Carolina has been ranked in the Top 25 in the AP Poll an all-time record 808 weeks, has beaten #1 ranked teams a record 12 times, has the most consecutive 20-win seasons with 31, and the most consecutive top-3 ACC regular season finishes with 37. North Carolina has ended the season ranked in the Top-25 of the AP Poll 43 times and in the Top-25 of the Coaches' Poll 44 times. Further, the Tar Heels have finished the season ranked #1 in the AP Poll 5 times and ranked #1 in Coaches' Poll 5 times. In 2008, the Tar Heels received the first unanimous preseason #1 ranking in the history of either the Coaches' Poll or the AP Poll. In 2012, ESPN ranked North Carolina #1 on its list of the 50 most successful programs of the past 50 years.
North Carolina played its first basketball game on January 27, 1910, beating Virginia Christian 42-21. In 1921, the school 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 1943 and later by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll. 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 won the Southern Conference regular season 9 times and the Southern Conference Tournament Championship 8 times.
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 in 1957 under fifth year head coach Frank McGuire, who led an undefeated 32-0 squad dominated by Lennie Rosenbluth and several other transplants from the New York City area to a 54-53 triple overtime victory over Wilt Chamberlain's Kansas Jayhawks. C.D. Chesley, a Washington, D.C. television producer, piped the 1957 championship game in Kansas City to a hastily created network of five stations across North Carolina—the ancestor to the current syndicated ACC football and basketball package from Raycom Sports—which helped prove pivotal in basketball becoming a craze in the state. The title game was the only triple overtime final game in championship history, which followed a triple overtime North Carolina defeat of Michigan State 74-70 the previous night.
In 1960, the Tar Heels were placed on NCAA probation for "improper recruiting entertainment" of basketball prospects. 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 alumnus Dean Smith.
Smith's early teams were not nearly as successful as McGuire's had been. His first team went only 8–9, and his first five teams never won more than 16 games. This grated on a fan base used to winning; in 1965 some of them even hanged him in effigy. However, Smith would go on to take the Tar Heels to a reign of championships and national dominance. When he retired in 1997, Smith's 879 wins were the most ever for any NCAA Division I men's basketball coach, and his 77.6% winning percentage ninth best. During his tenure, North Carolina won the ACC regular season championship 17 times, the ACC tournament 13 times, and the NIT in 1971, went to the NCAA tournament 27 times, appeared in 11 Final Fours, and won 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.
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.
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 North 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. North 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.
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. Williams had served as an assistant to Smith for 11 years before leaving to spend the first 15 years of his Hall of Fame head coaching career leading Kansas to 9 conference regular season championships and four Final Fours before Smith convinced him to return home. It was hoped that Williams would restore a measure of stability to the program. Doherty was UNC's third coach in six years. The two previous to Guthridge, McGuire and Smith, had covered a 45-year period.
In Williams' first season, 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 lost his top seven scorers, but the 2005–06 season saw the arrival of freshman Tyler Hansbrough and Williams was named Coach of the Year. The Tar Heels swept the ACC 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. North Carolina lost in the national semifinals of the 2008 NCAA tournament to Williams' former program Kansas.
In the 2008–09 season, the Tar Heels won their fifth NCAA title by defeating Michigan State in the championship of the 2009 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The Tar Heels won all six of that year's tournament 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 240 through the entire tournament. Wayne Ellington was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, the fourth Tar Heel so honored.
The 2009–2010 Tar Heels struggled throughout the regular season finishing with a 16–15 record, and dropped to #3 in Division I in all-time wins. They later lost in the first round of the ACC Tournament, playing in the first "play-in" Thursday game for the first time since the ACC grew to 12 teams. The Tar Heels did not receive an NCAA tournament bid, and instead accepted a bid to the NIT. During the season, the Tar Heels reached the 2,000-win milestone with a home win over Miami on March 2, 2010, becoming the second fastest college team to do so (North Carolina was in its 100th season of basketball at the time of this accomplishment). The Tar Heels were able to make it to the final game of the NIT, losing to Dayton in the final game finishing with a 20-17 record.
The 2010–2011 Tar Heels, with the addition of Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, and Reggie Bullock, eighth in the preseason polls, struggled out the gates, starting with a 2-2 record, the worst start since the 2001–02 season. After losses to Illinois and Texas, the Tar Heels fell out of the rankings. The losses of senior Will Graves, to dismissal, and Larry Drew II, to transfer and also the unexpected off-season transfers of David and Travis Wear did not help matters. However, the Tar Heels improved greatly during the conference season, finishing first in the ACC regular season with a 14-2 record. Williams was named Conference Coach of the Year for his efforts of getting his team to work through the adversity to finish strong in the regular season. Also during the season, the term Tar Heel Blue Steel was coined, referencing the Tar Heel men's basketball walk-ons. The term was started by one of the players, Stewart Cooper, in hopes that it would be a replacement for "walk-ons" and other less catchy names and soon enough Roy Williams caught on, as well as the rest of the Tar Heel Nation. North Carolina lost to Duke in the ACC Tournament Finals and made a significant run in the NCAA Tournament until they were eliminated in the Elite Eight by Kentucky, finishing with a 29-8 record.
The 2011–2012 Tar Heels finished the regular season with a final record of 32-6, including a 14–2 record in ACC regular season play which allowed the team to win the conference regular season championship outright. The team fell to Florida State in the championship game of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Tournament. The team was a #1 seed in the Midwest Regional of the 2012 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament; the team reached the Elite Eight and was defeated by Kansas 80-67. This defeat was the second time UNC lost to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament with Roy Williams as UNC head coach. He previously coached Kansas from 1988 to 2003. The loss to Kansas was also UNC's second straight loss in the Elite Eight, after losing to Kentucky the year before. Kansas later fell to Kentucky 67-59 in the National Championship Game. Before the Kansas game, the Tar Heels won their previous three games in the NCAA Tournament by an average of 13.7 points. In the second-round game versus Creighton, starting UNC point guard Kendall Marshall broke his right wrist with 10:56 remaining in the second half with UNC leading 66-50. Marshall continued to play by dribbling primarily with his left hand, including getting fouled on a drive to the basket with 7:09 left in the second half. He left the game against Creighton with two minutes left with UNC leading 85-69. Williams announced Kendall Marshall's injury at the Creighton post-game press conference. Kendall Marshall did not play in UNC's two following games in the NCAA Tournament, a 73-65 overtime win over Ohio in the Sweet 16 and the aforementioned 67-80 loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight.
In 2013-14, the Tar Heels became the only team in men's college basketball history to beat every team ranked in the top 4 in the preseason.
Dean Smith was widely known for his idea of "The Carolina Way", in which he challenged his players to, “Play hard, play smart, play together.” “The Carolina Way” was an idea of excellence in the classroom, as well as on the court. In Coach Smith’s book, The Carolina Way, former player Scott Williams said, regarding Dean Smith, “Winning was very important at Carolina, and there was much pressure to win, but Coach cared more about our getting a sound education and turning into good citizens than he did about winning.“
On June 6, 2014, the ESPN program Outside the Lines aired an interview with Rashad McCants, a starter on the NCAA championship-winning 2004–05 team, in which he claimed to have taken phony classes and had tutors write his classwork to stay academically eligible. Coach Roy Williams, separately interviewed by ESPN, as well as McCants's teammates, disputed McCants's claims.
In October 2014, Kenneth L. Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor hired by the university to investigate academic fraud reported by the media, issued a 131-page report showing at least 3,100 students took "paper" classes with artificially high grades over an 18-year period, and athletes were funneled to these classes by academic advisers. Wainstein reported that varsity athletes made up 1,871, or roughly half, of the enrollment, with the men's basketball team accounting for 12.1 percent (226) the athletes. Although two former UNC football coaches admitted knowing that a lot of students took the classes, there is no evidence the coaches knew the classes were irregular, and Williams denied knowledge (Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge, Williams' predecessors, were not interviewed because of poor health).
On May 22, 2015, UNC received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, which begins the formal investigation process. The notice made five allegations against the university, including providing impermissible academic benefits to athletes and what the NCAA terms "lack of institutional control". The university would meet with the NCAA in three months and receive a ruling within six to nine months. Neither Williams nor any member of his staff was specifically accused of violating NCAA rules, but the notice included 15 email exchanges between Wayne Walden, the team's academic advisor, and Debby Crowder, the African and Afro-American Studies Department office manager accused of orchestrating the paper class scheme.
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 third-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind UCLA's streak of 54 consecutive winning seasons from 1948 to 2001, and Syracuse's currently active streak of 42 seasons from 1971 to date. They also finished .500 or better for 39 years in a row from 1962 (Dean Smith's second year) to 2001, the third-longest such streak in NCAA history, behind Kentucky's streak of 61 consecutive seasons from 1926 to 1988 (the Wildcats were barred from playing in 1952–53 due to NCAA violations) and UCLA's 54-season streak.
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. By comparison, all of the ACC's other charter members finished last at least once in that time. From 1965 to 2001, they did not finish worse than a tie for third, and for the first 21 of those years they did not finish worse than a tie for second.
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 are 58-0 all-time in home games played against the Clemson Tigers (the NCAA record for the longest home winning streak against a single opponent). Until the 2010 ACC Tournament, North Carolina was the only program to have never played a Thursday game in the ACC Tournament since it expanded to a four-day format.All Time Wins- 2173
All Time Winning Percentage- .738
NCAA Championships- 5
NCAA Tournament Runner Up- 5
All Americans- 49 players chosen 78 times
ACC Regular Season Titles- 30
ACC Tournament Titles- 18
NCAA Championship Games- 10
NCAA Final Fours- 20 (This is the most Final Four appearances of all time)
NCAA Tournament Appearances- 47
NCAA Tournament Wins- 117
#1 Seeds in the NCAA Tournament- 15
Number of Weeks Ranked All Time in the Top-25 of the AP Poll- 808
Number of Times Defeating the #1 Ranked Team in the Country- 13
Pre-Tournament (Helm's) National Titles- 1
North Carolina has thirteen victories over the AP number one ranked team.Jan. 12, 1980 - No. 15 UNC 82, No. 1 Duke 67
Jan 18, 1989 - No. 13 UNC 91, No. 1 Duke 71
Mar. 17, 1990 - NR UNC 79, No. 1 Oklahoma, 77
Feb. 5, 1992 - No. 9 UNC 75, No. 1 Duke 73
Feb. 3, 1994 - No. 2 UNC 89, No. 1 Duke 78
Feb. 5, 1998 - No. 2 UNC 97, No. 1 Duke 73
Apr. 4, 2005 - No. 2 UNC 75, No. 1 Illinois 70
Mar. 4, 2006 - No. 13 UNC 83, No. 1 Duke 76
Dec. 4, 2013 - NR UNC 79, No. 1 Michigan State 65
To have his number retired, a player must win one of the following six widely recognized player of the year awards:Associated Press Player of the Year
Oscar Robertson Trophy, formerly known as the United States Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year
National Association of Basketball Coaches Player of the Year
Sporting News Player of the Year
John R. Wooden Award
Naismith College Player of the Year
Eight players (including Jack Cobb, whose jersey did not have a number) have had their numbers retired. Tyler Hansbrough's number 50 is the eighth to be retired, after he won all six major player of the year awards during the 2007–08 season.
49 former North Carolina men's basketball players are honored in the Smith Center with banners representing their numbers hung from the rafters. Of the 49 honored jerseys, eight are retired.
To have his jersey honored, a player must have met one of the following criteria:MVP of a National Championship-winning team
Member of a gold medal-winning Olympic team
First- or second-team All-America
ACC Player of the Year
NCAA Tournament MOP
To date nine Tar Heels have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame
The following 70 McDonald's All-Americans have played for North Carolina:
The following players won their state's Mr. Basketball award in high school.Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks
Reggie Bullock, Detroit Pistons
Vince Carter, Memphis Grizzlies
Ed Davis, Portland Trail Blazers
Wayne Ellington, Miami Heat
Raymond Felton, Los Angeles Clippers
Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
John Henson, Milwaukee Bucks
Ty Lawson, Sacramento Kings
James Michael McAdoo, Golden State Warriors
Marvin Williams, Charlotte Hornets
Brandan Wright, Memphis Grizzlies
Tyler Zeller, Boston Celtics
Brice Johnson, Los Angeles Clippers
Larry Brown, former head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets
Michael Jordan, owner and chairman of the Charlotte Hornets
George Karl, former head coach of the Sacramento Kings, Denver Nuggets, Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers
John Kuester, former head coach of the Detroit Pistons
Mitch Kupchak, former general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers
Donnie Walsh, former president of basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks
Doug Moe, former head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs
Billy Cunningham, former head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers
Rasheed Wallace, former assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons
James Worthy, assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers
Jerry Stackhouse, head coach of the Raptors 905
James Delany, commissioner of the Big Ten Conference (1967–1970)
Julius Peppers, Outside Linebacker for the Carolina Panthers (2017–present)
Ronald Curry, former Wide Receiver for the Oakland Raiders (2002-2008)
Richard Vinroot, former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina (1961–1963)
Brad Daugherty, ESPN and NASCAR television analyst and part-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing NASCAR race team (2008–Present)
Brendan Haywood, college basketball announcer for CBS Sports
Antawn Jamison, analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
The Carolina Basketball Museum is located in the Ernie Williamson Athletics Center and contains 8,000 square feet. It was built to replace the old memorabilia room in the Dean Smith Center. Designed by Gallagher & Associates, the cost of construction was $3.4 million. The museum opened in January 2008.
The UNC junior varsity basketball team was originally used at North Carolina as freshmen teams because freshmen were not allowed to play on the varsity team until the NCAA granted freshmen eligibility in the Fall of 1972.
After most schools decided to disband their J.V. squads, North Carolina's athletic department opted to keep the team so that non-scholarship students were given the chance to play basketball for UNC. North 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.NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament Consecutive Appearances
Most All time Final Four Appearances
Bynum Gymnasium (1910–1924)
Tin Can (1924–1938)
Woollen Gymnasium (1938–1964)
Carmichael Auditorium (1965–1986)
Dean Smith Center (1986–present)