Whenever the Tar Heels win a big one, students swarm Franklin Street, famously setting bon fires and leaping over them. With that being said, there has been plenty of heat and high-jumping over the years. Let’s take a look back at one of the most storied college basketball schools in the nation, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
Best Coach: Dean Smith ( 1961-1997) He would modestly deflect credit to his players, but it was Smith who invented winning strategies such as the run-and-jump defense, the foul-line huddle, the tired signal, the thank-you finger-point from scorer to passer and an array of brilliant end-game tactics. Smith broke Adolph Rupp’s 25-year-old record for career victories, won two NCAA titles—and reluctantly allowed an arena to be named for him. During Smith’s 36 year tenure at Chapel Hill, he took the Tar Heels to 27 NCAA Tournament appearances and 4 NIT appearances.
Biggest Rival: UNC and Duke recruit the same players, and their students, alumni and fans rub up against each other all over the state, the nation, and the world. The degree of dislike between these two storied programs cannot be overstated—even by Dick Vitale. When these teams meet there tends to be a ‘civil war’ the constant trash talk and hate among each other is off the charts. UNC leads the series 133-105.
Best Player: G Phil Ford (1974-78) Many people believe that Michael Jordan was the best, but real-to-the-bone fans recognize the Afro-sporting point guard as the best ever to play in Chapel Hill. A three-time All-American and the 1978 Wooden Award Winner, Ford held the school’s career scoring record for 30 years.
Game For The Ages: The 1957 Heels needed six OTs in two days to finish as undefeated national champs. After the three-OT win over Michigan State in the semis, Lennie Rosenbluth & Co. had to shake Wilt Chamberlain and Kansas in the March 23 Final. A bench-clearing dustup highlighted the first OT, and with :06 left in the third OT, Joe Quigg sank two free throws for the 54-53 win.
Best Team: 1981-82 The undefeated 1956-57 team is hard to beat, but the 1982 NCAA title winners (32-2) are tops. One of their losses came to Ralph Sampson’s Virginia, the other with Sam Perkins out sick. In the Final Four the Tar Heels beat Houston (who at the time had Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon) and then Georgetown (who had Patrick Ewing and Eric “Sleepy” Floyd). UNC was loaded with stars on the floor—James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Perkins–and on the bench: Dean Smith and assistants Bill Guthridge , Roy Williams and Eddie Fogler would all become national Coaches of the Year.
Fan Favorite: F George Lynch (1989-93): A relentless rebounder and defender, Lynch sacrificed offense to help his team win the 1993 NCAA title. He once guarded all five opponents on a single possession and said he’d jump off a building for coach Smith. What’s not to love?
Top 5 Players:
- Guard- Phil Ford 1974-1978
- Guard- Michael Jordan 1981-1984
- Forward- Tyler Hansbrough 2005-2009
- Forward- Antawn Jamison 1995-1998
- Forward- Lennie Rosenbluth 1954-1957
Enrollment: 28,136 (17,628 undergraduate)
Colors: Carolina blue and white
Nickname: Tar Heels
Current arena: Dean E. Smith Center, opened in 1986 (21,750)
First Game: January 27, 1911
All-time record: 2,090-745
Current Conference: Atlantic Coast (1953-Present)
Conference titles: Southern 7 and ACC 29
Conference tournament titles: Southern 8 and ACC 17
NCAA Tournament appearances: 45
National Titles: 5
NIT appearances: 5