"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
Here they come now, roaring and bounding into the Milwaukee Arena to start another cartoon show in the midst of that 2,000-game home winning streak—the Marquette Warriors, college basketball's answer to Wonderland.
At the fore is the Cheshire Cat himself, Dean Meminger, sly and crafty and grinning, always grinning. Meminger's toothy grin comes from beneath a pencil mustache and is a natural expression, he insists, since it "never leaves my face." Never? Well, hardly ever. After he puts his dipping, rolling, bippety-bopping moves to use inside; after he has, in his own playground words, "done it" to somebody, it is as if Meminger himself has disappeared and only the smiling mustache remains. Opponents are left openmouthed and puzzled, quite like Alice who, when the Cheshire Cat put his move on her, uttered in astonishment, "Well, I've often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat? It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life." A grin without a Meminger? Right. Do it, Dean.
What has turned out still more curiously, as all the Jesuits, Big Tens and other Alices unfortunate enough to have contested the Warriors have discovered, is that Dean (The Dream) Meminger is not the only astonishing person in Al McGuire's latest collection of disciplined executors.
At center this time there is really a center—6'11" Jim Chones—rather than those half-size Warrior pivotmen of the past who had orders never to shoot. At guard, there is a son, Allie, direct descendant of Al, the coach. And in the corners there is a mad tea-party atmosphere surrounding all.
On one side is 6'6" Bob Lackey: goateed, side-whiskered, his muscles rippling, his glare terrifying. Lock up the women and children. ("My father would have hired him as a bouncer on sight," says the senior McGuire.) And on the other is 6'6" Gary (Goose) Brell, whose flowing blond locks, uninhibited twitching and frenzied deportment on court loosen up his teammates, stun the crowd and once caused Red Auerbach, scouting Marquette in New York, to cry out, "Oh no; they got this one out of a cage; throw him a banana."
It is the kind of team a circus barker would love—step right up, step right up—a team with zest, flair and an overwhelming hunger for defense. It deserves all the promoting its self-confessed "part clown, part wild man" of a coach gives it when he says, "All I hear is 'This team's tough, that team's tough.' It doesn't matter, pal. The important thing is that we're tough. Listen, pal. We are tough, and the others are hearing our sneakers."
One of the things Marquette's sneakers have done recently is run off the nation's longest winning streak—25 games over the past two years. At home, where beer is not served during college games, it has been easy for McGuire to avoid the misfortune suffered by the gentleman in Jerry Lee Lewis' song, What's Made Milwaukee Famous (has made a loser out of me). With nary a kiss of the hops, Marquette has won 51 straight games in the Milwaukee Arena. Though home-court records always should be handcuffed and fingerprinted for justice's sake, the Warriors' most recent efforts there are worthy of note. Last week they continued both of their winning streaks with impressive decisions over Notre Dame, 71-66, and New Mexico State, 65-53, while holding firm as the only undefeated team (13-0) between America's coastlines.
The future capabilities of their heroes have Marquette's downtown campus joints in an uproar, but McGuire himself knows his team is young still and not yet where he wants it. "I can't think about March," he says. "Houston [the site of the NCAA championship playoffs] is for dreamers, and dreamers usually are asleep."