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One last pep talk from the Carolina coach

When UNC men's basketball chief Bill Guthridge stepped down on June 30, the 1998 national coach of the year got too choked up to read a statement to his players, and instead passed a handwritten copy to each of them. The Independent has obtained an alleged photocopy of Guthridge's farewell from a thoroughly unreliable source, and here reprints it in full, transcribed as best we could:

Dear Players,

Hope you can make this out. Never have been much for typing, not since Miss Ella Margolis rapped my knuckles red in the seventh grade for moving my hands to get to the number keys. You might not think I'm much for penmanship either. Scrawled this down, though, in case I couldn't choke the words out today.

I know you'll keep what I have to say under your hat. You'll find your hat, at times, atop your head. That's the place where your eyes are, where you see from. Breathe from.

(Pause for effect.)

Oh well. Nobody around here ever did get my jokes. The sportswriters used to have those same looks on their faces whenever I made a crack. The wittier it was, the more incredulous everybody got. And no, I won't define that word for you.

The sportswriters liked to say that I was known for my dry wit. Their excuse for not getting it. But let me tell you: These last few days, I've been about as dry as the Atlantic (Ocean). That's because I'm retiring. Stepping down. Pulling out. Leaving you with a new coach next season. Just like Coach Smith did three years ago (see your basketball orientation video, "The Zeus of Chapel Hill" segment, for further details).

Believe me: I'd rather not retire. Rather coach every one of you through your entire Carolina careers and rake in a few more million from Nike while I'm at it (much of which I would donate, as always, to the university library, which you really should visit next time you're on campus). But I'd rather not keel over in the middle of a game next season, either. I'll do my keeling over in the privacy of my home, if it's all right with you.

I've always been a teacher at heart, you know. Grew up in Parsons, Kan., son of a school superintendent, and hoped I'd get back to Parsons to teach high-school math and coach a little basketball. That was my dream. And that's one thing you can learn from me today: Stick to your dream. I didn't, and half the state of North Carolina has spent the last two years wishing I had.

Last year, some of you might recall, I told you after every loss that I believed in you. I said it with conviction. You knew I meant it. There's a lesson in this, too. It's called pragmatism. You don't have to be a math teacher to put two and two together, right? Now, does this add up: The coach believes in you after you've just gotten blown off your home court by Florida State? See, I was being pragmatic. Had no choice but to convince you that I believed in you. And you know what happened: After you heard it 13 times, you fell for it. Beat Stanford, got to the Final Four, shut everybody up temporarily, all because of pragmatism.

But what I came to say was this: Pragmatism aside, I really do believe in you guys. I will always be there for you, long as I'm kicking. You'll have a great season this year, and the next, no matter what member of the Carolina family replaces me as your coach. Just remember the other thing I kept telling you last year: Forget about the fans. Unless you're winning, there are no Carolina fans (see orientation video, "The Carolina Fan: A Contradiction in Terms" segment). Play for each other. Play with each other. And don't take that last bit of advice too seriously.

Didn't get that one either? Well, I love you anyway. Each and every one of you. And please, again, keep these remarks confidential. I know you will. You've never been anything but professionals.

Sincerely Yours,

Coach Gut EndBlock

  • One last pep talk from the Carolina coach.

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