Dean Smith announced his retirement just two months before the 1997-98 season and, not surprisingly, UNC didn’t have much choice other than to hire his lead and longtime assistant, Bill Guthridge.
He did leave him a pretty good roster, starting with Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, Brendan Haywood, Shammond Williams, Orlando Melendez, who is still playing with the Harlem Globetrotters incidentally, the unlikeable Ademola Okulaja and the loathsome Makhtar Ndiaye.
In Guthridge’s first visit to Cameron as head coach, UNC was superb for the first 3⁄4 or so of the game, building a 17 point lead.
UNC had hammered Duke in Chapel Hill earlier, winning 97-73 with star freshman Elton Brand watching with a foot injury.
In this one he was back though and after trailing for most of the game, Duke roared back in the last 11:30, mounting one of the great comebacks in the history of the storied rivalry.
UNC had chances to tie it at the line in the waning seconds but Cota missed his first and missed his second intentionally. Freshman Haywood was fouled by Brand and missed his first and then the second before Duke could claim the 77-75 win.
Senior Steve Wojciechowski rushed over to Coach K for a famously emotional hug. Afterwards, K said that Wojo, who had 1 point with 11 assists and just one turnover, had one of the great 1-point games in the history of basketball. The teams would meet again in the ACC Finals with the Tar Heels registering an 83-68 win.
The Tar Heels would get to the Final Four where Ndaiye would humiliate himself, his coach and his school by falsely accusing Utah’s Britten Johnson of calling him the N-word during their Final Four game, which UNC lost.