Remembering Bill Guthridge

Bill Guthridge, a native of Parsons, Kansas, and K-State alum, passed away at the age of 77 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Guthridge played basketball for K-State from 1956-60, and, after a two-year stint as the head basketball coach at Scott City High School, he returned to K-State as a graduate assistant coach for coach Tex Winter. Following his time as a GA, Winter hired Guthridge to his coaching staff as an assistant coach in 1964.
"He was an unusual player, he was not big or quick or fast, he didn't jump well, but he was tough, and he was scrappy. He always hustled on the court," remembered Guthridge's former teammate, Steve Douglas. 
Douglas and Guthridge competed together on the K-State freshman team and became quick friends. 
"There were about 15 freshmen who entered and were on the freshman basketball team in 1956," explained Douglas. "Of those 15, we knew only four or five would make the varsity team the next year. It was a competitive situation. Bill and I were competing, more or less, for the same position because we both played guard. At first, I was weary of him and he probably was of me, but we bonded pretty quickly and became the best of friends."
During their Wildcat careers that progressed past the freshman team and onto K-State's varsity squad, the two helped K-State to three consecutive Big Seven/Eight Conference titles and to the 1958 Final Four. Those were good years for the program, and good years for the two best friends. 
Guthridge and Douglas continued their friendship long after their collegiate basketball careers were through. The two spent the summer following their graduations from K-State living together in Winter's house. Guthridge was Douglas' best man in his wedding.
"We stayed very close," said Douglas, who was asked to speak at Guthridge's funeral earlier this week. "We got together whenever we could. We would meet in the summer and would go on an excursion to wherever the St. Louis Cardinals would be playing. We had both been Cardinals fans since high school, so those were good times. Then as we grew older, we got together with our families at the beach on the East Coast. We would have summer family vacations together as often as we could. We would reminisce."
Guthridge stayed in Manhattan as Winter's assistant from 1964-68. During that time, he helped K-State to a 62-41 record, worked in the K-State Athletics ticketing office and also served as the head men's golf coach.
"Bill played a good role as an assistant coach," said Larry Weigel, who played basketball for Winter and Guthridge from 1962-66. "He was quiet, reserved. You never saw him upset. He had a coaching style that was low key. He had a soft voice and would visit with you one-on-one; he was kind of a behind-the-scenes guy. Tex ran the X's and O's and we ran the triangle, but Bill was in more of a supportive role. He was well liked and was a good fit for Tex."
Following his time at K-State, Guthridge made the move to the University of North Carolina as an assistant coach for Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith in 1968 and went on to spend 30 years with the program. In his time at UNC, the Tar Heels won two NCAA Championships, reached 12 Final Fours and won 13 ACC Tournament Championships. 
"When we both made it to the varsity team at K-State, in Bill's case, it was pretty clear that he wasn't going to play a lot," said Douglas. "He knew it and Tex knew it, but they also respected each other so much. Tex identified Bill as a potential coach, the rest of us players did also. We understood that Bill was not only on our side competing against opponents but he was also preparing for a career."
And the career he saw certainly was a successful one. 
Guthridge took over as the Tar Heels' head coach in 1998 and became only the second coach in NCAA history to make two Final Four appearances in his first three seasons as a head coach. After his first year as the head coach, Guthridge became the 1998 ACC Coach of the Year and consensus National Coach of the Year. 
He retired from his successful coaching career in 2000 and is inducted into both Kansas the North Carolina Sports Halls of Fame. 
"I used to kid him about it, I told him he was going into a career in the toy department," said Douglas with a sigh. "He would just laugh, and of course, the way things turned out, he was the one who had the last laugh."
Guthridge is survived by his wife of 42 years, Leesie, sons James McWhorter and Stuart McWhorter, daughter Megan Guthridge Hyatt, grandchildren Kaden and Liam Hyatt, Max McWhorter, Nyita Hooper, and Laura McWhorter, and step-grandchildren Mariana Nepomuceno and Nikolas Nepomuceno. He is also survived by his sister, Joan Guthridge Rodkey, of Kansas City, and 14 great-nieces and great-nephews.
His funeral service took place on Monday, May 25, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  

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