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N.C. Assistant Pleads Guilty to DWI

November 18, 1999

DURHAM (AP) _ North Carolina assistant basketball coach Phil Ford was placed on a year’s probation and lost his driving privileges for a year Thursday after pleading guilty to drunken driving.

Ford, North Carolina’s career scoring leader, sat silently as he listened to the sentence resulting from a plea agreement. He also was ordered to pay $586 in fines and court costs.

Ford was charged with drunken driving and failing to stop at a red light after being pulled over by Durham police Sept. 27. A breath test showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.24 percent _ three times North Carolina’s legal limit. He also had a previous out-of-state drunken driving conviction.

Durham County District Judge Claude Allen sentenced Ford to eight days in jail, then suspended it because Ford has completed a 28-day alcohol-abuse recovery program.

The failure-to-stop charge was dropped as part of the plea agreement. Ford’s attorney, James Williams, said the sentence was no different than anyone else in similar circumstances could expect.

``He wanted to go ahead and take his punishment,″ Williams said. ``From all accounts Phil is doing a remarkable job getting his life together.″

Ford declined comment as he left the courthouse.

Williams said the coach will travel with the Tar Heels Friday to a tournament in Hawaii.

Ford rejoined the Tar Heels Nov. 8 after completing a 28-day alcohol abuse recovery program. Ford acknowledged last week that he had been an alcoholic for 14 years.

``I’m glad this is behind us,″ coach Bill Guthridge said. ``Phil has done a great job since he’s been back on staff and is working diligently on managing his illness and we are looking to the future.″

Guthridge said previously that Ford, the team’s top recruiter in recent seasons, will not be involved in recruiting for the rest of the season. Guthridge also stripped Ford of his junior varsity coaching duties for the time being, saying he wanted to give Ford more time with his family so he could become a head coach in the future.

It was Ford’s second arrest for drinking and driving. Police records in Michigan show Ford’s blood-alcohol level was 0.26 percent when he was stopped in September 1997 while on a recruiting trip.

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