Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Remembering Al McGuire





Every year during the NCAA Tournament I always think about former Marquette head basketball coach Al McGuire....

McGuire was a street tough Irishman who was a quirky odd bird of sort....he came from the hard streets of New York City and started his coaching career at a little school in North Carolina called Belmont Abbey....

Of course, he gained his notoriety as the head coach of then Marquette Warriors....it has been 30 years since McGuire won his only national title at Marquette in his last game as head coach.....his team, led by Butch Lee and Jerome Whitehead, beat Dean Smith’s North Carolina 67-59 in Atlanta, where this year’s Final Four will be held....

McGuire was a different coach alright.....over 90 percent of all his players eventually graduated from college.....he recruited his players from inner cities....he once said, "My rule was I wouldn’t recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house. My world was a cracked sidewalk....

He cared about his players.....while at Marquette, one of his best players Jim Chones had to make a decision whether to leave school early and enter the NBA draft or stay for another year....Chones grew up dirt poor and had five younger siblings....McGuire told him, :"When I look into my refrigerator and then I look into Jimmy’s - I told him - take the money"....

After retiring, McGuire probably gained greater fame as a college basketball analyst for NBC and later CBS....

Who could ever forget his screams of "Ahhhhhhhhhhhh......Holy Mackerel!!!....Holy Mackerel!!!"...after Georgia Tech stunned Southern Cal with a buzzer beater shot in the 1992 tournament...

There was the other time when he started dancing with the Syracuse players and fell down on his behind....

Basketball was his trade, but he was passionate about other things such as riding his motorcyle or collecting toy soldiers.....he loved seashells, balloons, clowns, and weepy country songs...

McGuire died in 2001 from leukemia.....in his last few days, after being hooked up to IVs for over two weeks, McGuire’s long time friend and former assistant Rick Majerus came to visit him....McGuire disconnected all his IVs and asked Majerus to get him a hamburger with onions and a hot fudge sundae....he was determined to go out "his way....

They don’t make them like Al McGuire anymore....

So this weekend, when the Final Four is about to tip-off, raise a frosty glass of beer to Al McGuire in honor of the 30th anniversary of Marquette winning the national title...