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‘A special person’

College basketball mourns Al McGuire, who coached champions and created phrases as an announcer.

By SHARON GINN

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001


Al McGuire, known for success as a college basketball coach and broadcaster but loved for his kind heart, quick wit and colorful verbiage, died Friday in Milwaukee of a blood disorder. He was 72.

McGuire had been seriously ill since July, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He retired from CBS in March from a 23-year career in broadcasting, saying at the time only that he had a form of anemia. His family did not release a cause of death.

McGuire left coaching in 1977 after leading tiny Marquette University to the NCAA championship. He compiled a 295-80 record in 13 seasons with Marquette, taking the team to post-season play 11 straight seasons. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 with a career record of 404-144.

As a broadcaster, McGuire began his career with NBC, teaming with, among others, Dick Enberg and Billy Packer. He became known for phrases such as "white knuckler" and "aircraft carrier." He joined CBS in 1992 for the NCAA Tournament.

"Al McGuire is the original -- a special person," Packer said in a statement. "If he met you, you never forgot it."

NBC's Bob Costas called him "a genuine original who came out of a time when there were real characters in sports, not packaged images."

At the CBS offices in Tampa, where the network is preparing to host its first Super Bowl in nine years, colleagues close to McGuire -- and there were many -- struggled with their feelings while scrambling to get ready for Sunday.

"We lost a giant and a genius," said Enberg, in Tampa as a special contributor to Super Bowl coverage.

"Al was the most unique and incredible person I ever met. He saw life at a different angle than the rest of us. He could cut through all the fat and get to the bone of the matter quicker than anyone I've ever known."

A graduate of St. John's University, McGuire played for the New York Knicks from 1951-54 and the Baltimore Bullets from 1954-55. His brother, Dick, who also played for St. John's and the Knicks, also is in the Hall of Fame.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia; sons Al and Rob; a daughter, Noreen; his brother; and six grandchildren. A visitation and funeral Mass at Gesu Church on the Marquette campus Monday night will be open to the public. In October, Marquette announced the $20-million athletic facility it plans to build would be named after McGuire.

"He was a wonderful contradiction," Enberg said. "While Al worked at Marquette, he always said he had a choice when he got to the campus each morning -- he could turn left and go to work or he could take a right-hand turn into the Wisconsin countryside. Al always allowed himself to take a right-hand turn at least once a month. He let life happen and enjoyed it and he has now taken the ultimate right-hand turn."

- Information from the Associated Press and staff writer Brian Landman was used in this report.

No. 1 Warrior

AGE: 72; born Sept. 7, 1928; died Jan. 26, 2001.

ALMA MATER: St. John's.

NBA PLAYING CAREER: New York Knicks (1951-54); Baltimore Bullets (1954-55).

COACHING CAREER: Dartmouth (assistant, 1954-56); Belmont Abbey (coach, 1957-64); Marquette (coach, 1964-77). Retired from coaching after winning NCAA championship in his last game (March 28, 1977). Overall record: 404-144.

TELEVISION ANALYST: 1977-2000.

HONORS: Named coach of the year by the Associated Press, United Press International, the Sporting News and the United States Basketball Writers Association (1971). Named coach of the year by Medalist Sports Education (1974). Elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. (1992).

- Compiled by the Associated Press.

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