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

Friday, March 23, 2012


Al McGuire would have broken the Internet.

That’s been bouncing around in my head ever since Buzz danced on West Virginia’s home court.  The resulting Twitter explosion was stunning, followed by stories on Deadspin/The Big Lead/every sports website, and then television coverage on ESPN.  Buzz felt he had to apologize to the entire WVU administration and address it multiple times in follow up interviews.  Regardless, WVU fans still hate Buzz.  Nobody cares about those turncoats, though.

However, in comparison to the antics of Al, dancing to “Country Roads” was nothing.  Can anyone imagine what would have happened after hearing that McGuire got in a fight with one of his players at halftime?  Or after the 1972 fight with South Carolina, where Al said, "A waltz... a bar-hall bouncer wouldn't take his coat off for this one."  

Yeah, Al McGuire would have definitely broken the Internet.

I like to picture Al in the same situation.  I like to think he wouldn’t have apologized to the WVU administration… or that he would have taunted the students going into apoplectic “hold me back bro” mode.  Maybe he would have quipped at the end, “It’s a good song.  Get over it.”  Of course, who knows what McGuire would have really done?  I certainly don’t, but that’s my impression of Al based on his legend as the myths and facts blend.

Al is a legend, but he's only one part of the truly unique heritage of Marquette in the 1970s.  Marquette had the colorful coach, the flashy uniforms, the cool nickname, and the on-court success.  Most importantly, the Warriors had success on the court.  Just like several generations will never fully appreciate Al McGuire, it’s almost as hard to understand how legendary the entire Marquette program was in the Seventies.

Or can we?

Last night's game hurts... no doubt.  Marquette played an atypical and frustrating game.  The defense was good enough to win, but just not enough shots went down.  However, it really was a remarkable and wonderful season.  Second in the BIG EAST?  A Three Seed?  Back to back Sweet Sixteens?  My biggest disappointment about last night is knowing that there won't be any more basketball until October.  It's so long until October.

For the first time since 1977, Marquette stands poised to continue its vault back to nationally recognized excellence.  Marquette has the flashy uniforms and the on-court success is starting to come.  And although they broke the mold with Al, if there was ever a coach with the potential to be legendary like him, it’s Buzz.  Consider his collection of youtube highlights (Walk it Out), random catchphrases “Lion hunter,” and rambling storyteller-level press conferences.  But mostly there is the consistent on-court success.

Buzz himself would state that he’s too humble to even be considered in comparison with McGuire or others.  It’s as unfair to both coaches as it is easy to draw parallels.  But as a lion hunter, we better believe that Buzz thinks he could be legendary too.  For a coach, what bigger lion is there to hunt?

Can today’s Marquette return to a level of being powerful again?  It’s not wrong to believe that Marquette can achieve greatness like in the Seventies, if not necessarily become the second best program of the decade.  MU has the financial commitment, the quirky coach, the flashy uniforms, and now the consistent return of on-court success.  Despite losing two first team BIG EAST players, next year Marquette will be more experienced, taller, and deeper.  Buzz has shown the ability to cobble together consistent tourney success, and there's no reason to doubt anything else next year.  We have something special brewing in Milwaukee, and it can be its own form of legendary.

Now if we could only do something about the Warrior nickname, everything would be perfect... 


Anonymous said...

Well said. To be fully legendary again, we'll have to win another championship. That it even seems possible is a huge tribute to Buzz.

jw said...

Good read. Takes a little sting out of last night.

Unknown said...

I'd love to see a run like in Al's time. Problem is that too many players leave early for the NBA. Causes dynasty disruptions. UCLA used to keep the top select players thru college. Then MU's Jim Chones left early in '72 (?) and early defections became the norm. Don't even have to be hardship claims anymore. Look at Austin Rivers leaving Duke. Daddy Doc (oh, I hope that doesn't sound too much like Papa Doc) makes plenty of money. If you have programs like KY now you get the best freshmen money can buy but they are prone to freshman mistakes and inexperience - usually resulting in losing a championship run. To wit - the Fab Five at Michigan. What you CAN get is consistency in winning programs. Buzz, along with the $$ they spend on tutoring/education for the players, can bring it. Let's see if someone lures him away. Money talks, ask Mr. Chones.