SI Vault
Gerald Holland
December 09, 1957
Coach Frank McGuire, formerly of Greenwich Village, has been enthusiastically adopted as North Carolina's very own, along with a team he imported from Greater New York
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December 09, 1957

Dixie's Yankee Hero

Coach Frank McGuire, formerly of Greenwich Village, has been enthusiastically adopted as North Carolina's very own, along with a team he imported from Greater New York

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The professor rushed into the trap.

"Frank," he exclaimed, "I'll tell you exactly what to do. I've been studying the matter and I just don't see how you can pass up this boy Harvey Salz, as a starter. He's got everything, Frank; great ball handler, good shot, fine backcourt man, good team man; he'll fit in there just fine."

McGuire listened carefully. The professor took a deep breath. "Now," he went on, "now I've been watching this boy Shaffer. A very good boy, Frank. Great coordination, but maybe a little heavy-handed. Very young, too, maybe he's not quite ready. But you've got a great prospect there if you handle him right. Now then, I'd string along with Pete Brennan, Bob Cunningham...."

McGuire interrupted him. "Excuse me, professor," he said, "I think Buck wants me over there. But thanks a lot for those tips. They'll help me a lot. I'm very much obliged."

"Not at all, Frank," said the professor expansively. "When you have time, I have some more ideas." As McGuire hurried away, the professor looked around with obvious self-satisfaction. Nobody said anything.

After a minute, the professor rubbed his head. "Doggone it," he said, reddening, "do you think that fellow McGuire was pulling my leg?"

The group, chuckling over the incident, soon was in the midst of an impromptu symposium on McGuire, and from it some of the reasons for North Carolina's enthusiastic approval of him began to become apparent.

McGuire was no stranger to Chapel Hill when he took over as coach in 1952. He had been stationed at the university as an officer in the Navy's V-5 training program during the war and, characteristically, was soon on first-name speaking terms with the entire town. Through a friendship struck up with Y. Z. Cannon, the barber, he found out that the local high school needed some basketball coaching and volunteered his off-duty hours. After the war, his Carolina friends followed his career as coach at St. John's (his teams won 106 games, lost 36), and when Coach Tom Scott tendered his resignation at North Carolina, McGuire's name was on every list of candidates submitted to the athletic department. The offer was made, and McGuire, remembering the town affectionately, jumped at the chance to raise his children (especially Frankie, who has cerebral palsy) in a small and unhurried college community.

His first year was a great success with the alumni when his team managed to defeat North Carolina State, an arch rival. But at one point during his first year McGuire's material was so depleted by injuries that he had to order his student manager (who had never played anything but intramural basketball) into uniform and into the lineup for an important game. Gradually, however, his wide friendships began to turn up prospects. The celebrated Harry Gotkin of New York was particularly effective. (Says McGuire of Gotkin: "Harry calls me regularly every week. I've known him since I played with his brother, Java, at St. John's. Harry knows the kind of player I'm looking for. He was terribly anxious for me to make good down here. He works day and night scouting. Now, somewhere some amateur scout was quoted as saying he was paid for finding likely boys. Well, nobody ever got the price of an ice cream cone from me. Harry Gotkin is just plain crazy about basketball. He's neglected his own business with serious consequences, all because he runs around looking at high school and prep school games.")

One of the group said slowly and carefully:

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