As an assistant, Guthridge was renowned for his success in coaching the fundamentals of pivot play to a long series of successful UNC big men, and as the Tar Heels' primary shooting coach. Guthridge also handled many day-to-day responsibilities in the program and oversaw UNC's summer basketball camps. While serving as an assistant coach, Guthridge turned down several head coaching opportunities, preferring to remain in Chapel Hill working alongside Smith.
Head Coaching Career
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. In 1998, Guthridge inherited a team that had been to the 1997 Final Four the previous year under Coach Smith. With a wealth of returning talent, Guthridge instituted a "six starters" system, whereby the team's top six players, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, Shammond Williams, Ademola Okulaja and Makthar Ndiaye rotated positions in the starting five. Guthridge coached that team to the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship, a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and to the National Semifinal game, where they lost to Utah. Following the 1997-1998 season, several organizations named him National Coach of the Year and he received the Naismith College Coach of the Year award.
The next season, the team earned a #3 seed in the 1999 NCAA tournament, but was upset in the first round by Weber State. In 2000, the team struggled in the regular season, but came alive at tournament time. In the 2000 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, the Tar Heels earned only a #8 seed, after an 18-13 record, but upset top-seeded Stanford in the second round and continued on to the Final Four, where the Tar Heels lost to Florida. After the 2000 season, Guthridge retired from coaching.