"I'll take kicks, knees, elbows, every shot he's got," said Riker, "but not after the whistle blows. This guy's a cheap-shot artist. It was bush league."
Such pugilistic activity is not wholly unexpected when any McGuire steps on a basketball court. In fact, everything about this match between Al and Frank seemed to recall the past—all, that is, except the new uniforms Al broke out that featured wild stripes and a certain iridescent shade from which the color blue may never recover. Historians pointed out that it was not the first time the two men had brought their respective schools together. In the 1966 Milwaukee Classic, South Carolina defeated Marquette 63-61 in a game that contained many elements of the McGuire—pick either McGuire—style, a game that concluded on an offensive goaltending call that disallowed a tying Warrior basket.
Al still thinks Frank stole that one by earning two technical fouls early in the contest. These, he believes, persuaded the officials to look favorably on South Carolina toward the end. Another technical called on the Gamecock bench so frustrated the Marquette McGuire that finally he went to his knees and begged the officials to give him a T, too. "I say he won that game," says Al of Frank. "All I did was stand up," says Frank.
Since that time the coaches have ducked further encounters, assuming humanely that one should not beat up on one's friends. It was last April, after South Carolina had made its quick getaway from the Atlantic Coast Conference into the land of independents, that Frank McGuire felt maybe the two should meet again. He needed a basketball schedule fast and called on Al.
"The student-against-teacher situation tears your gut out," said Al last week. "I'd give anything not to play this game. But, really, I consider it a favor for me to do a favor for Frank. Maybe it's the first time ever I get to pay him back for all he's done. Loyalty—that's what he always taught us."
Al calls his relationship with Frank "distant close," but the careers of the two men have intertwined at so many points and in so many places along the way that in the minds of many basketball followers they must be either father-son, brother-brother or, at worst, distant cousins. They are unrelated.
They came together on the streets of the big city, at St. John's in 1947, Frank off a Greenwich Village block around the corner from Gene Tunney's house, Al from the beaches of Rockaway. It was Frank's first college coaching job and Al was a freshman player. When the youngest McGuire reached the varsity the following year, his brother Dick was already there, and the three McGuires combined to produce a strong team flavored by Dick's passing and Al's flair for lunacy. In the three years Al played for Frank, the Redmen went to three NITs, one NCAA and, contrary to belief, not one mental institution.
Frank McGuire's glory years were to come after he and Al parted ways. The year following Al's graduation, Frank coached St. John's to the NCAA finals, losing to Kansas in a game that Al listened to while on the road as a pro with the New York Knicks. Five years later Al was working in a sewer in Long Island City when the national finals came around again. This time Frank, then at North Carolina, defeated Kansas in triple overtime for the championship.
Within months Al was in North Carolina, too—at little Belmont Abbey College outside Charlotte where Frank had recommended him to the Benedictine monks. For the next few years, while Frank was rampaging through the ACC, Al withstood the perils of Belmont Abbey. "I thought he would leave me there forever to die in a monastery," Al said. But Frank bailed him out again, this time to Marquette, whose Jesuit fathers had offered him their coaching job.
So in 1964 Marquette got Al, the same year that South Carolina got Frank. Which is why it all came down to the flesh-and-blood confrontation last week in Columbia.