No. 24: 1967
Our series counting down the Top 30 North Carolina basketball teams of all time continues.
Our mission isn't to make any declarative statements, but rather have some fun, give our readers something to discuss, walk down memory lane some and provide a needed escape.
Your thoughts and picks are welcome in our message board thread for this series.
No. 24: 1967
Record: 28-6 (12-2)
NCAA Tournament: NCAA Final Four
ACC Tournament: ACC Champions
Coach: Dean Smith
All-Americans: Bob Lewis; Larry Miller.
All-ACC: Larry Miller (1st), Bob Lewis (1st).
Honors: Larry Miller, ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP, ACC Athlete of the Year; Bob Lewis, NCAA East Regional MOP; Dean Smith, ACC Coach of the Year.
What's To Know: Just two years earlier, a contingent of angry UNC students hanged Dean Smith in effigy following a loss at Wake Forest that dropped the Tar Heels to 6-6 on the season, Smith's fourth campaign as Carolina's head coach. The Heels finished 15-9 overall in 1965 and 16-11 in 1966. Smith survived in Chapel Hill, though three consecutive trips to the Final Four weren't exactly on anyone's radar at the time of the hanging or the ensuing 21 months.
But that's what happened beginning in 1967. Smith's vision of how a basketball team (and program) should be constructed and perform was on display in the '67 club. It was quite talented - Larry Miller (21.9 points, 9.3 rebounds), Bob Lewis (18.5 points) and Rusty Clark (13.9 points, 10.3 rebounds) just to name a few - played like a symphony at times and North Carolina was a rising name on the national landscape. Carolina found itself ranked No. 2 in three straight polls and was never lower than No. 5 in any of the last 10 polls. No effigy stuff for Smith ever again.
The Tar Heels started the season 16-1 rolling past a quality collection of opponents, including winning at defending national runner-up Kentucky and pounding Ohio State, though they fell to Bill Bradley and Princeton. The problem with the 1967 Heels is how they closed the season. They went 8-4 in their last 12 games (10-5 in their final 15) with three blowout losses and a snafu versus Clemson in Charlotte.
Smith's first Final Four team is historically important for several reasons and will always remain on a list such as this. It wasn’t the beginning of what was to come, as that foundation was being laid since his arrival, but it was the season that launched the program into a realm it has remained for 53 years since.
1967 NBA Draft
Bob Lewis, 4th Round, No. 37 overall selection
Mark Mirken, 11th Round, No. 117 overall selection