Here’s a detail about Al McGuire you likely don’t know: Among his many habits, he liked to lie on the floor. Often, when he was in a hotel room, he would sleep through the night on the hard tile floor of a bathroom.
Here’s another one that carries more weight in showing what made McGuire such an amazing person: When he would drive from his home in Brookfield to Marquette University, there was a place where the route called for him to turn left and head for downtown. Once a month or so, he would turn right instead, with no destination in mind, determined to spend a hunk of time wherever he ended up, just exploring and immersing himself in real life.
That latter habit gave rise to one of the things McGuire would say to people: Take that right hand turn sometimes. Do things differently sometimes. Do the unexpected. Experience life to the fullest.
These were among anecdotes and insights into the legendary Marquette basketball coach offered Tuesday by one of the nation’s best known sports broadcasters, Dick Enberg, during an “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” program at Marquette Law School.
McGuire coached the Marquette team from 1964 to 1977, ending his career with Marquette winning the NCAA championship. For almost 20 years after that, he was an analyst on national telecasts of basketball games, paired with Enberg as the play by play announcer. The two became close friends.
After McGuire’s death in 2001, Enberg wrote a one-man play about McGuire. It is returning to the stage in Milwaukee, with a run at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Stackner Cabaret from Jan. 20 to March 19. The revival of the play brought Enberg, who recently retired after a six-decade career that included broadcasting just about every major sports event, to Milwaukee and to Marquette, which he called “my adopted university.”
Enberg said McGuire was “the most incredible character in my 60 years (as a broadcaster) that I’ve ever met.” He added, “There’s no one in second place. He was by far.”
McGuire, Enberg said, was incredibly complex. “He didn’t mind being controversial,” Enberg said. “He was distrustful, paranoid even sometimes . . . . He didn’t want too many people to get in his electrical field.” It took a while, but McGuire let Enberg inside his life.
McGuire was “a street genius that saw life so differently than all the rest of us,” Enberg said. He said that McGuire would see things happening on the street and offer deeply insightful explanations of what was going on that Enberg had missed.
Enberg said no one could coach a basketball game better than McGuire. He could work the players, the referees, and the crowd like no one else.
“I really do think about him every day,” Enberg said.
In the course of the hour-long program, Enberg also offered observations about his own career. Among them:
Baseball is the best game for an announcer. Enberg, who was the long-time voice of the San Diego Padres, said that if you can announce baseball well, you can announce anything.
The Wimbledon tennis tournament was his favorite sports event overall – and he saw just about every major event there was. He said he fell in love with Wimbledon, from the grass courts to having the best men and women tennis players in the world competing for two weeks to the drama of center court.
His favorite sports figure? There are so many good answers, Enberg said. He said John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA, was “the greatest man I ever met,” except for Enberg’s own father. Baseball great Ted Williams was a huge childhood hero for Enberg and he got to know Williams in later years. A chance to have breakfast with Williams and chat casually, “how good is that?” Enberg asked. And golfer Arnold Palmer, “you felt you were in with royalty every time you were around him.”
As for one of his broadcast trademarks – the use of the phrase, “Oh, my” – Enberg gave examples of how many different ways it can be used, including at moments that are thrilling, dismaying, surprising, and tense. He said he used the phrase because it fit so many situations and because “the holies” (as in holy cow, holy Toledo, and holy mackerel) were already taken by other announcers.
Video of the program may be watched by clicking here.