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Welcome to His World
Frank Deford
November 29, 1976
Perhaps you can figure out Al McGuire of Marquette, a basketball coach who is credit-card-wise, likes to skip the French pastry and get down to the numbers
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November 29, 1976

Welcome To His World

Perhaps you can figure out Al McGuire of Marquette, a basketball coach who is credit-card-wise, likes to skip the French pastry and get down to the numbers

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Nobody else is permitted to see it all. He tells his secretaries when he hires them: two years. After two years, no matter how good you are—especially if you're good—out. It's 3 a.m., where have you been? Pat, any calls for me, Pat? The only person who lives in Al McGuireland is Al McGuire. Cynics and the jealous take a look at the characters who pass through and they check out his con and whisper that he is really an ice-cold man who surrounds himself with bootlickers and sycophants. But that is not true. On the contrary. Sure, they all play up to McGuire—remember now, charmers are an overlay—but he has a need for them, too. Not just the players and the coaches, but all the people and places in Al McGuireland are complementary. Like his players, all retain their individuality and integrity. That's the whole point: otherwise they're no good to him. Lloyd Walton screaming back is the Lloyd Walton that McGuire wants, in the same way that sometimes he selects a fleabag hotel precisely because he wants a fleabag hotel.

The one permanent thing is the numbers. They are distant and bland, to be sure, but they provide permanency. The other things—the people and the places and the basketball games—are vivid and dear, but they consume too much of him to be sustained. And critics say it is all an act. McGuire wonders himself. But, no, he is not acting. He is directing all the time. Al, you're a director, Al. You're always running pattuns.

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