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ESPN Classic Remembers Al McGuire

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AUDIO/VIDEO
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 The Fire
ESPN's Digger Phelps says Al McGuire was a master of disaster on the basketball court.
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 The soul of the game
Utah's head coach Rick Majerus says Al McGuire was a man for all seasons.
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 Dan Patrick Show
Digger Phelps has fond memories of Al McGuire.
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 Dan Patrick Show
When Al McGuire passed away, Digger Phelps lost a brother.
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 Tony Kornheiser show
ESPN's Tony Kornheiser remembers basketball coach and broadcaster Al McGuire.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
McGuire won title in last game as coach
Associated Press


MILWAUKEE -- Al McGuire, the Hall of Fame coach who took his love of basketball from the streets of New York to the NCAA championship and the broadcast booth, died Friday. He was 72.

Al Mcguire
Al McGuire coached Marquette to 295 wins in 13 years.
McGuire died of a blood disorder, said his brother, Dick, in a telephone interview from Dix Hills, N.Y. He denied reports that McGuire had leukemia.

McGuire's family was with him when he died, according to a statement from his son, Al. The statement, released by Marquette University, did not disclose the cause of death.

"We've truly lost one of a kind, one of the most unique and incredible characters I've ever met," said CBS broadcaster Dick Enberg, a longtime friend and colleague.

NBC broadcaster Bob Costas, who worked with McGuire and occasionally substituted for him, described him as "a genuine original who came out of a time when there were real characters in sports, not packaged images."

McGuire retired as a college basketball broadcaster after 23 years following a Wisconsin-Indiana game March 5, 2000. He said at the time he had a form of anemia but was not more specific.

McGuire was one of college basketball's most successful coaches for 20 years, leading Marquette to 11 postseason appearances, capped with an NCAA title.

"Coach McGuire was a tremendous inspiration," said Bo Ellis, one of the stars McGuire recruited at Marquette. "He was a very important part of the success that I've had in life, during college and afterwards. Not only was he a tremendous motivator and teacher but was a street fighter and the last three months showed us how strong and tough a man he really was. He fought an illness that doctors believed would end his life months ago. ... I think he even surprised himself.

"When I visited him in September, he didn't think he would be alive to see Thanksgiving. I have to truly say, from the time that I met coach until the day he died, he never changed. He was a caring man, he was a giving man and a major influence in my life. I will miss him."

Tom Crean, the current coach at Marquette, said that McGuire was a unique individual who taught many life lessons to those who came in contact with him.

"The value of contributions that Al made to Marquette University, the field of television and basketball, in general, was enormous," Crean said. "His impact will go on forever. Most importantly, though, the impact he had on people, even in my case when it was a short period of time, was indescribable and profound.

"Al, even at the end, had a unique way of making you feel better about yourself. If all of those who were touched by him just listened, his lessons will go on with us forever."

McGuire played at St. John's before a brief NBA career that ended in the 1954-55 season. He then made his mark on the sport as a coach and broadcaster, earning him election to the Hall of Fame in 1992.

"He was fun to be with, not fun to play against," said former St. John's coach Lou Carnesecca, a schoolmate of McGuire's.

His head coaching career started at Belmont Abbey in 1957 and he moved on to Marquette in 1964. He stayed for 13 seasons, the last in 1977 when the Warriors beat North Carolina in the title game in Atlanta.

Rather than join the celebration as most coaches do, McGuire sat on the bench by himself, his face buried in his hands, crying. It turned out to be his last game as a coach, as he retired shortly after.

He joined NBC in 1977, and his constant banter with fellow analyst Billy Packer became a staple for college basketball fans. "McGuireisms" like "tap city," "white-knuckler" and "aircraft carrier" became part of the sport's vocabulary.

In McGuire's argot, a "thoroughbred" who was "dynamite" in practice and mediocre at "curtain time" was a "3 o'clocker."

"Al was never a professional broadcaster, so anything that he did on air was not contrived," Packer said. "He was able to articulate what he was seeing the way he thought he saw it. It was all natural, that's why it was so well accepted."

One of his famous lines came when Packer said North Carolina center Geoff Crompton, who weighed more than 300 pounds, had lost 15 pounds. Without hesitation McGuire responded: "That's like the Queen Mary losing a deck chair."

He joined CBS for the 1992 NCAA Tournament and worked for them until his retirement last March. He entered a suburban Milwaukee hospital in July and was later transferred to a managed care facility.

"Our family has marveled over the past months at his inner strength and enthusiasm to live each day to its fullest," McGuire's son said. "Even as his illness wreaked havoc on his body, he remained resolute in mind. He will be deeply missed."

McGuire finished with a career coaching record of 404-144, including a 295-80 mark at Marquette for an overall winning percentage of .737.

The Warriors won the NIT in 1970, the last time a school turned down an NCAA bid.

That year, McGuire was unhappy with what regional bracket Marquette would be sent to by the NCAA tournament committee. So he took his team, which had a 22-3 record and was ranked eighth in the country, to play in the NIT. The Warriors beat LSU and Pete Maravich in the semifinals and then knocked off local favorite St. John's in the championship game.

Minutes after the title game, McGuire was asked if his decision made some people in Milwaukee unhappy.

"Frankly, I don't care," he said. "I felt we could win the NCAA, but I'm happy with any championship. I've never won one anywhere."

The Warriors lost in the 1974 NCAA title game to North Carolina State.

McGuire also was a master recruiter.

He mined the playgrounds of the inner cities, unafraid of bad neighborhoods like Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant. That was how he got his first major player at Marquette, George Thompson.

He also brought in from New York players such as Dean "The Dream" Meminger and Butch Lee, the MVP of the 1977 championship and player of the year in 1978.

"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house," McGuire said in 1997. "That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk."

Marquette announced in October that its new athletic facility would be named for McGuire. The school had already retired No. 77 in his honor.

At the time of his selection to the Hall of Fame McGuire said the honor was bestowed because of his years coaching at Marquette, but he really learned to coach at Belmont Abbey, a small school in North Carolina, from 1957-64.

"That's where I drove the bus, picked up the towels, wrapped the ankles. There's no one who's dropped on top of the mountain," McGuire said. "You've got to work your way to the top."

He played for the New York Knicks from 1951-54 and the Baltimore Bullets from 1954-55.

He was joined in the Hall of Fame by his brother Dick, who also played at St. John's and for the Knicks.

He remained active in his adopted community of Milwaukee where he served as chairman of Al's Run to benefit Children's Hospital of Wisconsin for 14 years.

Besides his sons Al and Rob, and his brother, McGuire is survived by his wife, Patricia; a daughter, Noreen, and six grandchildren.

A visitation and funeral Mass at Gesu Church on the Marquette campus Monday night will be open to the public. In lieu of flowers, the family suggested memorials to the Milwaukee Blood Center Research Foundation.

Information from SportsTicker was used in this report.





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