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Larry Keith
November 28, 1977
As a basketball coach, Al McGuire was an original—outspoken and innovative and a winner through and through. He began his career as an assistant at Dartmouth, moved to the head job at little Belmont Abbey in North Carolina and spent the last 13 seasons at Marquette, where he was twice Coach of the Year and where he produced an NIT and an NCAA champion. He won 404 games and lost 144, but it was his flamboyant style that really set him apart. After winning the national title last spring, he retired from coaching to become vice-chairman of the board of Medalist Industries, a sporting goods conglomerate, and a color man for NBC. Recently he took time out from his work to offer predictably unorthodox views on the present and future of the college game.
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November 28, 1977

A Conversation With Chairman Al

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McGUIRE : Obviously it was an immense pleasure, but I really only thought about it a month or so later when I was motor-biking up in Nova Scotia. I was going into Truro, and I said to myself, "Yeah, it was nice to win that."

SI : But what did you feel the night you won it?

McGUIRE : I was thinking about something else, really. When I got on the bus to go to the airport, it struck me that this would be the last time I would sit in the front seat. All my life I had wanted to sit in the front because that's where the coach always sits.

SI : While you were sitting there, what went through your mind?

McGUIRE : That it had been a nice run, a good ride. A lot of the kids I had coached flashed through my mind. And I thought about the Police Athletic League games and the fights and the early years of six guys getting into a car to play in Wilkes-Barre or Elmira. If you didn't give the crowd three fights in a game they weren't happy. The halftime always lasted an hour and a half so there could be a dance. By the time you got back to play, the floor was slippery. That's what I was thinking about. All those things, and what made them happen. Maybe because I never thought I would win a national championship.

SI : You didn't? Why not?

McGUIRE : Because of the way I coached. I didn't build for particular games or particular seasons. I built for continuity. That is not the best way to get the greatest team in sight and win the national championship. Besides, I had five or six teams better than last year's.

SI : John Wooden's UCLA teams were consistent but they also won national titles.

McGUIRE : When you talk about normal coaches and normal systems, you have to eliminate Coach Wooden. But I think Dean Smith works about the way I do. North Carolina is always good, but I don't know if this is the smart way of doing it if you want to build to a national championship. Take Bobby Knight's 1976 Indiana team. Four seniors and a junior, and all dynamite. And North Carolina State when it won with David Thompson and the big white kid [ Tom Burleson] underneath. San Francisco is taking its one shot now, but then there will be a drought.

SI : What makes a team a winner?

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