"Oh, yes," said Pritchard, "he put on a lot of weight later on. I recall seeing him in New York years after we finished school and I wouldn't have known him. Weighed 300 pounds. I recall he was quite nervous too, and he said to me, 'Grady, let's go get a drink.' I said, 'Tom, that suits me, but I never knew you to take a drink in Chapel Hill.' Tom said, 'Oh, I never did in those days, Grady, but now I'm living on it.' "
"I wonder," said one of the group, "if Frank McGuire could have made a basketball player out of Tom Wolfe."
"I'm coming to that," said Grady Pritchard. "That's the point of the story. I was thinking of that very thing, how McGuire and Tom Wolfe would have gotten along together. They wouldn't have gotten along at all unless Tom Wolfe changed his ways."
"Why do you say that, Grady?" a man said.
" Tom Wolfe," said Grady slowly, "was a friendly fellow and everybody liked him. He'd wander around the campus after class and talk to people and then go down to town and talk some more and listen and then he'd stay up most of the night writing. But Tom had one fault. He was very untidy. He didn't care when he shaved and he'd wear a white shirt until it was coal black. One time, some of the students jumped him and stripped him naked and tore up his underwear so he'd have to change it."
The group laughed. " Tom Wolfe would have never made McGuire's team!" a man said. "Frank is a nut about personal neatness. Why, I've seen him chase a first-rate prospect out of his office for wearing a T shirt. And another time one of the players showed up for a game with a stubble of a beard. Frank wouldn't let him in uniform. The boy had to borrow a razor from the janitor."
Grady Pritchard held up a hand. "Now," he said, "as I see it, one of two things would have happened. Either Frank would have chased Tom Wolfe out of the gymnasium or he would have persuaded him to spruce up. Maybe Wolfe would have taken the advice and changed his ways entirely. Maybe changing his ways would have changed his personality. If that had happened maybe he would have gone into business in Asheville and never written a line."
The group nodded solemnly. It was not clear whether they were pondering basketball's loss or literature's gain.
At this moment, McGuire himself walked over to the group. He was frowning. He looked from one face to another and finally stared searchingly at the professor.
"Professor," he said, after a moment, "I'm worried. I don't know what I'm going to do with the team this year. I can't figure out how to use the material I've got."