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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.
McGUIRE : Actually, if I had known we were going to win, I wouldn't have made plans to quit, because I don't think it's manly to leave after you win.
McGUIRE : My original plan was for Hank to coach last year's team with me as athletic director. Then I would have gone to Medalist in May, Hank would have become the AD, and somebody else would have coached this season. I couldn't do it because the Medalist board didn't make its decision until the season had started. Also, Hank told me he wanted to coach more than one year. My plan might have offended him, but though I think he's a great coach, I honestly felt we'd had our Shangri-La together.
SI : Did you have someone in mind to coach this season?
McGUIRE : No. I wouldn't have gotten involved. I never even thought about it.
SI : What is your relationship with the school now?
McGUIRE : I'm gone. I said, "If you need me, call me. I'd be flattered, but otherwise I won't interfere." The only games I'll see will be the ones I'll cover for NBC. The toughest thing about all of this for me is that it means I've got to keep away from the players. Several of them have come down to my office at Medalist but I wouldn't see them. I'd love to have a beer and talk about the championship, but that's going to have to wait until they graduate. Every school in the heavyweight division has periods of crisis and dissension, and I can't let myself be the players' sounding board if they have one of those periods at Marquette.
SI : Well, you can talk to us about the championship. What did it mean to you?