APRIL 4, 1977
Alfred (Butch) Lee learned a lot about basketball during the three years he played for Al McGuire at Marquette. But the most important thing he learned from the legendary McGuire was how unimportant the game really is. "Al told us that basketball was a big thing to us, but it was just a small part of life," Lee says. "I paid attention to that. I always thought of myself as more than just a basketball player."
And he was quite a player. Twenty years ago Lee, then a 6-foot, 185-pound junior guard, played 40 minutes and scored 19 points in the Warriors' 67-59 victory over North Carolina in the NCAA championship game, and earned the Final Four's most outstanding player award. The following season he was the college basketball player of the year, and he finished his career with 1,735 points, which still stands No. 2 on Marquette's alltime list. "There wasn't one thing that made Butch great," says McGuire, who retired after Marquette won its first and only NCAA title. "He was a silent assassin, gentle, lovable, a competitor from within."
Lee was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and averaged 9.2 points per game as a rookie, but after the season, while performing simple stretches on his bedroom floor, he tore cartilage in his right knee. After riding the bench on the Los Angeles Lakers' 1979-80 championship team, Lee, faced with the specter of slogging his way through sundry training camps to remain in the NBA, quit basketball and entered the real estate business. He and a partner started the Harvey Land and Shelter Company in Cleveland, where Lee had played briefly as a Cavalier in '79. Eight years later Butch moved with his wife, Kim, and their son, Keith, to New York City, where he spent a year at Fordham's law school. After separating from Kim the following year, he headed to his native Puerto Rico, where he had played professionally for several summers. Today Lee is again a businessman—he runs a nightclub in Ponce called Cafe 149—but he also has been coaching in a Puerto Rican pro league since '91 and is thinking of returning to the States to pursue that profession full time.
Lee made it back to Marquette in early March for a halftime ceremony honoring the 1977 team. "We all went to a pub that night and played pool. When it was over, I felt like it was time to go back to the dorms," Lee says. "Over the years, I've come to appreciate how difficult it is to do what we did. My career wasn't as long as I wanted it to be, but I was able to be on a championship team. I don't envy anyone."