McGuire's rant sent Marquette rolling to a title in '77
There was nothing remotely close to ESPN, CNN or satellite television. There was no Internet, e-mail or instant messaging. No iPods or YouTube or entertainment download services.
The road to the Final Four was years from becoming CBS' domain, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament was far from what would become March Madness.
So on March 17, 1977, when Marquette coach Al McGuire used an unbelievable seven-minute tirade after a one-point regional semifinals victory over Kansas State to blast the NCAA for what he perceived was mistreatment, multiple media outlets did not exist to distribute McGuire's emotional hurricane.
Maybe, just maybe, you could have heard snippets on your local radio station's morning sports recap. Your newspaper was about as good as it got. If you had a tape recorder, a little device that plugged into the tape recorder and a little suction cup that attached to the phone that would allow you to tape telephone conversations, and the proper number to call, "Al's Tirade" was there for the taking.
It was by that trifecta of good fortune that I turn back the hands of time. So on the 30th anniversary of Marquette's national championship in Atlanta and McGuire's exit from coaching at the pinnacle of success, you can get an idea -- perhaps for the first time -- of what happened that night after the Midwest Regional semifinal in Oklahoma City.
For whatever reason, McGuire had some problems in the NCAA tournament. Maybe, if you are into conspiracies, it had something to do with his snub of a bid in 1970, when the NCAA put him in a region he didn't feel was appropriate. He told the NCAA to stuff its bid, went back home to New York and won the NIT.
McGuire was assessed two technicals late in the first half of the 1974 NCAA championship game against North Carolina State. It resulted in a 10-point turnaround for North Carolina State and led to a 76-64 victory.
"I would say that I lost the game there," he said. McGuire was more judicious after that. And there was no conceivable way he would have been angling for a technical in the Kansas State game. He had long since announced he was retiring, and his next defeat would be his last.
McGuire was given a technical early in the second half when an official thought a choke sign McGuire was giving his players, a signal to his team Kansas State was getting tight, was meant for the official.
McGuire may have invented the strategic, or psychological, technical. More than a timeout, it would get the attention of everyone in whatever building he was in: his team, the opponent, fans and, of course, the officials. The focus, however brief, would be on McGuire. He could make his point, and, more often than not, the Warriors would respond with a game-turning spurt. It was a bit of a con on McGuire's part.
Afterward, he asked if he could speak on his own instead of answering questions.
"I have a tremendous hang-up on the technical," McGuire said. Then, quickly, Mount McGuire erupted. It lasted more than seven incredible minutes, during which his voice went from screaming outrage, to being on the verge of tears, to conversational tones and all over and back again.
"Either I'm sicko or someone else is sicko in this thing," McGuire said. "Now, I was yelling that the (Kansas State) team was startin' to tighten up. I put my hand on my neck and said that they're tightening up And the ref blows a technical on me.
"I've been through this this bull(bleep) too many times in the NCAA. I coach exactly the same no matter where the hell I am. And every time I come to the NCAA, they end up calling technicals on me. ...
"I kept quiet for the last 10 years. Now either they're taking these officials and brainwashing them before they have my game. ...
"What the hell's going on? Guy calls a technical foul on me when I'm talking to the team. And the only way a guy can do it is because subconsciously, he's been told. And then he won't come over and (talk to) me. All I wanted to tell the guy is, 'Hey, I'm talking to the guys, not to you.'
"Now there's too much smoke in back rooms, there's too much whispering, or there's too much something going on. ... To call a technical foul at that time of the game is a mortal sin. And it's wrong. ...
"Now it doesn't make any difference to me. I'm on my way. But I don't want to blow it for these guys (the players). ... I would not say a word to you, guys, if we would have lost. There's no way I could say a word. ...
"That's a competent official. He wouldn't be here if he wasn't competent. And someone brainwashed him. And they've been brainwashed before. ... I'm talking about the subconscious of the official is being reached, in some smoke-filled room. Somewhere. They're prepping them."
Finally, McGuire cooled down.
"So, peace. I'm sorry and so on, but I'm glad I got it off my chest," he said. "But it's about time for some people to realize that I'm not a bum in a bowery, a wino in a hallway or a pimp on a corner. I know my profession. I know it well. And I've worked at hard. All my life I've worked at it hard."
The unranked Warriors -- they got into the tournament despite an un-Marquette-like 20-7 record -- went on to pound ninth-ranked Wake Forest in the regional final. They got the benefit of the doubt from the officials and scoreboard operator -- correctly, a replay showed -- in a last-second, 51-49 victory over 17th-ranked UNC Charlotte in Atlanta. Finally, the championship in the form of a 67-59 victory over fifth-ranked North Carolina in the since-demolished Omni on a rainy night in Georgia.
During the coming days on CBS and ESPN and other outlets, we probably will see McGuire, on the bench, with his head in his hands, during the final seconds of Marquette's victory in the championship game.
But earlier, McGuire's journey to the Final Four provided a memory only a fortunate few were able to experience.
"....it's a mortal sin. And it's wrong." Al...providing a little clarity for the atheists, I guess.
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