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Number of posts: 17
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By Jack Wilkinson:
“Seashells and balloons.” That’s what Al called it.
In the inimitable lexicon of Al McGuire, seashells and balloons meant victory and happiness. Mike Krzyzewski knows the meaning and, once again, the feeling. So do his kids from Duke, if not the heartbreak kids from the heartland, the valiant Butler Bulldogs …
Just imagine the decibel level in Indianapolis Monday night, in Lucas Oil Stadium, had Gordon Hayward’s last prayer been answered. Just imagine if he’d banked in a last-gasp shot from just beyond midcourt.
It’s the day of days. Opening Day in baseball. Last call for men’s college basketball. A happy Cinco de Mayo to you, too, just one month from today. Tonight in Indy, it’s Butler-Duke. We all know where Al McGuire would stand on this one: America’s Bulldogs, not the aristocratic Blue Devils. A no-brainer.
Good Friday gives way to Great Sunday. To the greatest Saturday in sports. Final Four Saturday. To the semifinals, or semis. [Note: It’s pronounced “SEM-ees.” Not SEM-eyes. SEM-eyes have 16 wheels. They have no place in basketball parlance, and belong on highways. Back to hoops…].
At 6:07 p.m., Butler, blessed Butler, America’s Bulldogs, will tip off against Sparty — Michigan State, which is back in yet another Final Four under the great coach Tom Izzo. Butler is in its very first Final Four. Brad Stevens, the baby-faced coach, looks as young
How ’bout them Dayton Flyers, huh? Very fitting that they won what is surely, awfully the final NIT. That said, comma, how ’bout a few more Al-isms?
Here goes — a few Al McGuire quotes that pertain to Saturday’s Final Four semis:
Another handful of Al McGuire quotes:
“A team should be an extension of a coach’s personality. My teams are arrogant and obnoxious.”
“I never saw a ballplayer play
Tonight in New York City, in The World’s Most Famous Arena, the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament will be played in Madison Square Garden. In the lid-lifter (hey, I grew up readhing the New York Daily News and later worked there), Ole Miss meets Dayton. In the nightcap (another NY tabloidese term), North Carolina plays Rhode Island. Somewhere, once again, Al McGuire’s smiling.
Two Al-NIT memories:
On this Palm Sunday, let’s keep this short and sweet and to the point: Butler 63, Kansas State 56. Butler, in the Final Four in Indy, its hometown. Butler! There IS a basketball God; but then, we knew that. It’s six miles from Butler’s campus to Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Bulldogs — America’s Bulldogs — will play in the Final Four semifinals Saturday. Al McGuire would’ve absolutely loved this. But somewhere, Al’s smiling. Still talking to us, too…
Alas, only Butler is left. Cornell departed Thursday night; Friday’s casualties were Ali Farokhmanesh and Northern Iowa, and St. Mary’s (don’t ask, don’t tell). Later today, your Butler Bulldogs — hey, they’re not just my Butler Bulldogs, they’re YOUR Butler Bulldogs — face Kansas State in the West Regional final in Salt Lake City. And if there is a basketball God — and we know there is — Butler will advance to the Final Four. Right in its hometown of Indianapolis.
Think Al McGuire is rooting for Butler?
Here are a few more Al McGuire quotes.
All aboard the Butler bandwagon.
“My rule was I wouldn’t recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house. That’s not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk.”
Thirty-three years ago, the most entertaining, fascinating and distinctive coach in college basketball history won his only NCAA championship in his final game. Right here in Atlanta. On March 28, 1977, as his Marquette Warriors were completing their 67-59 upset of North Carolina, Al McGuire, the Irish tough kid from Rockaway, N.Y., sat on the bench in the old Omni.
The only thing Al lost that night was his composure. He began to weep. “It was magic,” Al later recalled. “The next thing I knew, I was crying where Sherman burned the city down.”
Tommy is my favorite athlete of all time. Not Julius Erving, whom I played against for four years in high school, and later had the good fortune to encounter professionally. Not Tom Glavine, the Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame pitcher who is the best athlete, in every sense, I’ve ever dealt with as a sportswriter. No, not Dr. J or Glav. My favorite athlete ever is Tom Wilkinson. Even with an eight-year age difference, we were very close from the start. The three words I heard most often at 14 Farnum Street were “Pitch to me!” When Tommy, the youngest of three kids, was born, our Dad, who worked nights, was understandably less inclined to wake up on three hours sleep and play ball with his little boy. Instead … ”Jackie, pitch to me!” In the driveway. That’s where I pitched to Tommy, sometimes for what seemed like hours. And […]
Went to visit Skip the other day. Seemed like the right thing to do. The Cardinals were in town, Harry’s original team long before he became a Cub fan, a Bud Man and, as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune once wrote of Harry Caray, “The most famous beer drinker in America.” Sully wrote that fondly, and most accurately. It’d been a couple of months since I first saw Skip’s grave. Paula Caray took Patty Rasmussen and me to the cemetery one winter’s day after we’d all shared a nice lunch. Now, it was time. With the Cards here to play the Braves, I could almost hear his high-pitched, nasally whine: “Wilkerperson! Where have you been?! What, you don’t visit me anymore? And you still vote Democratic?” The Green Hornet, my 1998 Chevy S-10 pickup, is in the shop, so I needed a ride to Arlington Memorial Park. Mark Slockett […]
Like the men’s NCAA final the previous evening, there was no drama in Tuesday night’s women’s basketball final. There was, however, perfection. Behind Maya Moore, the kid from Collins Hill High and unquestionably the best player in women’s college basketball, Connecticut (39-0) completed its third unbeaten season with another national championship. UConn’s predictable 76-54 rout of Louisville gives coach Geno Auriemma his sixth NCAA title. It also gives Huskies men’s coach Jim Calhoun — who already has enough health and NCAA inquiry concerns of his own, and who’ll never be carpool buddies with Geno — a little more agita. No, Mark Fox wasn’t on anyone’s radar before being named Georgia’s new men’s basketball coach. But yes, this guy can coach, recruit, X-and-O and even succeed in the loaded SEC East. Florida’s Billy Donovan, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and, especially, Kentucky’s John Calipari be damned. In the opening week of the 2005 […]
With apologies to John, Paul, George and even Ringo … Wednesday morning at 9 o’clock, as the day began, I woke up, got outta bed, dragged a comb across my alarmingly-balding head and — what else? — checked the NL East standings. And there they were: the Braves, atop the division at 2-0. And at the bottom? The world champion Philadelphia Phillies, 0-2 … and counting. “Games in April Count.” That’s the headline on today’s Philadelphia Inquirer column by Phil Sheridan, a good guy and terrific columnist. Not that the knee-jerk overreaction in one of our great American sports cities is over the top. Not yet. But while we here in Dewlandia are pleasantly pleased with the local nine’s nice start, Phillie fanatics are, well, already concerned. “The Season After began with great fanfare and enthusiasm among Philadelphia fans,” wrote Sheridan, who was there Sunday night when manager Charlie Manuel […]
This was shortly after 10 o’clock Monday evening, heretofore the most thrilling, dramatic, tension-packed and anticipated night of the year. At least ever since I’d learned the terrible truth about Christmas as a kid (and no, I couldn’t handle the truth about the faux fat man) and, a few years later, once I’d stayed up late to watch Loyola of Chicago deny Cincinnati a three-peat in ‘63. Why is this night different from all others? Monday was the greatest night on the calendar. The night of the NCAA Men’s Championship Game. The culmination of our greatest sporting event: three weeks of, to use the most hoary, overused cliché in sports, March Madness. A real reality TV mini-series. A Rust Belt “Survivor: Ford Field.” The Final Four down to two: the imperial, baby-blue Tar Heels of North Carolina, and the blue-collar, people’s-choice Spartans of Michigan State. You go, Sparty. I couldn’t […]
Like all of you, hoop junkies from Barack to bottom-feeders on the basketball chain, I religiously do my NCAA Tournament brackets every March. This morning, I was exchanging e-mails with my high school coach, the great Mike Cingiser. I was fortunate to have played for Mike in the late ’60s at Lynbrook High School on Long Island. He was a three-time first-team All-Ivy League pick in the early ’60s, Brown’s leading career scorer when he graduated in 1962 and, as head coach of his alma mater from 1981-91, led Brown to its only Ivy title in 1986 and into the NCAA Tournament. As a casual P.S. in today’s e-mail, I asked Mike, “So, how are your brackets?” This was his reply from Callawassie Island, where Mike lives with his wife, the sainted Mar: “I stopped doing brackets in ’87 when Alice Watson, a wonderful lady who was my secretary and […]
The name of the game was “Nickname.” It was the name game within the game, born 30 years ago during the most magical, maddening, heartbreaking and exhilarating month of the year: March. Specifically, March of 1979, during the grandest of all our American sporting events. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It was conceived, as greatness invariably is, by sportswriters on the road. Guys with too much time on their hands, then-generous per diems and, in post-game hospitality rooms across the country, ample quantities of the sportswriter’s two favorite beers: Free, and Free Lite. The Nickname concept was simple, and simply brilliant: Give sports nicknames to non-sports celebrities. And so today, on this greatest of days, the start of another NCAA Tournament, let us genuflect in honor of … Elizabeth “Fatty” Taylor. And Jonas “Dr. J” Salk. Jack “The Shot” Ruby. Pearl “The Earl” Bailey. And, of course, Walt “No Neck” […]