A little after one o'clock in the morning on Sunday, March 24, 1957, a form of mass hysteria appeared to seize the citizens of North Carolina. In cities, towns and villages all across the state, people suddenly rushed out of their houses and began to dance in the streets. Yelling at the top of their lungs, they built bonfires in the public squares. School and firehouse bells rang out, and hastily assembled street bands blared rousing southern marches.
The excitement was greatest in the beautifully wooded town of Chapel Hill, where the biggest bonfire of all was ignited smack in the middle of Main Street. It was down this same Main Street that an especially jubilant man was seen to come riding through the thick of the traffic and the snake dancers. He stood out because he was riding, not inside an automobile, but on top of one. As he jumped up and down and shouted and waved his arms, the crowd recognized him and gave him a special cheer. He was the chancellor of the University of North Carolina.
What had inflamed the chancellor and his fellow citizens was something they had seen on their television screens a little earlier that night. It was one of the most exciting games in basketball history and in it the University of North Carolina Tar Heels had defeated the University of Kansas for their 32nd straight victory and the national collegiate championship.
Back home in North Carolina (the game had been televised from the Auditorium in Kansas City), the celebration went on through the night, and later that same Sunday more than 10,000 men, women and children descended upon the Raleigh-Durham airport to welcome the team home. And when the heroes came down the steps from the plane, the roar that went up from the 10,000 fairly crackled with Dixie's pride in its own.
December 9, 1957
Actually, however, the heroes hailed from no part of the South, but from Brooklyn, The Bronx and other points in Greater New York. They were coached by a man who was reared in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, the son (and 13th child) of a New York City traffic cop. All of them together, in strict terms of geographical origin, were as out of place in their University of North Carolina jackets as hush puppies on a dinner table in Boston.
The story of how North Carolina had wholeheartedly adopted this band of invaders out of the North is more than a story of the 32 games and the national championship they won. In large part, it is the story of the traffic cop's son, Dixie's favorite Yankee and college basketball's reigning coach of the year—Frank Joseph McGuire.
One evening, on the eve of the 1957-58 season (North Carolina was scheduled to open against Clemson this week), Frank McGuire sat at the head of the table in the dining nook of the McGuires' brick home on Oakwood Drive in Chapel Hill. Draining his cup of coffee, he set it down and turned to his wife, Pat, a tall, slender brunette who grew up in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of New York City.
"Pat," he said, "that was a delicious dinner."
"Thank you," said Pat McGuire.
"I don't like pork chops," said Carol Ann McGuire, 10, "with pineapple on top of them. I scraped it off."
"You missed the best part," said McGuire. He glanced at his wristwatch and looked at Carol Ann and then at Frankie, 6 years old, across the table. A third child, Patsy, 15, was away at boarding school in nearby Greensboro. Another member of the family, Mac, a boxer, sat solemnly in the doorway.
Frank McGuire got up and lifted Frankie to his shoulder and led the way into the den off the living room. The wall was filled with pictures and cartoons, including a copy of the celebrated one by Willard Mullin of the New York World-Telegram & Sun showing giant basketball players emerging from a New York subway stop on the North Carolina campus. After tuning in the television set and getting the children (and Mac) settled, McGuire walked back to the dining nook for a second cup of coffee.
"I love those horse operas," he said. "They may not be art, but I've never seen a bad guy get away yet." Husky, broad-shouldered, square-jawed, his reddish-brown hair thick and wavy at 42, McGuire himself looked like convincing casting for a Western. Except that he was scarcely dressed for the part. He wore a light gray tie against a dark gray suit, from a wardrobe that is by Brooklyn Clothier Abe Stark, who, in public life, is president of the New York City Council.
McGuire looked up at the wall where a magnetic board marked in the dimensions of a basketball court hung like a decorative mural. It was there for a very practical purpose: frequently, late at night, McGuire and his assistant, James A. (Buck) Freeman (his coach during his playing days at St. John's University in Brooklyn), sit before the board and move the metal blocks about as they ponder stratagems for an impending game.
McGuire nodded at the board as he returned to the subject of the dinner-table conversation. He spoke softly, in New York accents, so softly that it seemed to be a conscious modulation of a voice that once was surely pitched to the decibels of New York streets and the waterfront where he worked as a boy during summer vacations.
"Of course," he said, "what happened last year couldn't happen again in a thousand years. There was something eerie about winning 32 straight. We won several games we should have lost, we got breaks that were out of this world. I thought sure we would lose at least four games we won and finally I almost hoped we could get beaten just to take the terrific pressure off the players. Well, not the players so much, because they kept cool even if I didn't. But the students and the alumni and the people generally were feeling the strain. Strangers would come up to me and slip me a nutmeg, a lucky coin or a rabbit's foot to carry in my pocket, or a man might beg me to wear the same sports jacket to every game. Students were growing beards, they counted their steps from one class to another so they would take just the same number every day. One student got the idea he would jinx us if he moved his car. So he let it stand where it was and collected parking tickets until the season was over."
He took a sip of coffee.
"Now there is no place to go but down," he said cheerfully. "And the trick is to go down gracefully. I hope we lose early in the season. That will take the pressure off and the team will be better for it."
"What game would you like to lose, Frank?" said Pat McGuire with a wink. "The Clemson game?"
"Well, no," said McGuire. "I don't want to lose any game specifically. The team will be trying to win them all, naturally. But the law of averages says we've got to lose sometime and I'm just saying that the sooner we lose, the better."
Pat McGuire cleared away the dinner plates. She called from the kitchen: "Remember the sportswriter who asked you if you thought you could win them all last year?"
McGuire rubbed his chin ruefully.
"Oh, I do remember," he said. "I told him that anybody who won them all would just have to be cheating."
He chuckled. "That sportswriter called me on that after the season. I played innocent and said, 'Did I say that?' "
He looked at his watch again.
"Speaking of pressure," he said. "I'll confess something about the kind of pressure I feel sometimes. I have this recurring dream, this kind of nightmare. I see us losing. And we just don't lose. We lose like nobody ever loses. Now we never scored less than 54 points in any game last season, and we got the 54 against Kansas for the championship. We won games by scores like 102 to 90, 95 to 75. We scored 90 points against Yale, 94 against Clemson, so on, so forth. But in this dream I have, what happens? The final gun goes off and the score comes over the loudspeakers, such and such team 106, North Carolina nothing!"
McGuire leaned across the table and tapped it with a finger for emphasis: "We don't score anything. We're shut out!"
He shuddered, closing his eyes and letting his head roll as if reeling from a blow. He opened his eyes and spread out his hands.
"Can you imagine anything like that?" he demanded. "And it's so real that I never can begin to relax on the bench until we get our first point. Then I say to myself, 'Well, anyway, we won't be shut out.' "
He laughed at himself, looked at his wristwatch once more and got up from the table. It was time to go to the gymnasium.
The McGuires are a two-car family with a one-car garage. In the garage was one of the low-price three, but as he came out of the house and walked across the lawn, McGuire opened the door of a 1957 blue and white Cadillac. It was a gift last season (long before the Tar Heels became national champions) from students, alumni and other McGuire admirers in Chapel Hill, Durham and other parts of the state. Students—in the campaign that was organized by George Hogan, the travel agency man, and Obie Davis, the gasoline station proprietor—were not permitted to contribute more than a dollar, and most of the undergraduates, about a thousand altogether, gave quarters and half dollars.
(North Carolina newspaper editorials commented wryly on the McGuire Cadillac. Said the Charlotte News: "We certainly don't begrudge Mr. McGuire a single cylinder of his prize. He's a fine gentleman, a wonderful coach and deserves the recognition. We just wish that his less fortunate colleagues...could enjoy similar rewards. We understand Dr. James L. Godfrey is having an unusually good year in history, but not a whisper have we heard about outfitting him with a new car....")
As he drove along the highway leading to the university gymnasium, McGuire pointed to a supermarket by the side of the road. "I drove up there in this car the other day and two kids watched me park. One of them said, 'This must be a rich guy.' The other kid looked at me and shook his head. He said, 'Nah, it's Coach McGuire.' "
McGuire's income, if it does not allow for Cadillacs, is upper bracket for his trade. It is guessed to be about $12,000 after five years at North Carolina. (He recently signed a new five-year contract.) He supplements his salary with fees paid to him as instructor at basketball clinics and summer camps.
McGuire entered the gymnasium building on the ground floor and stopped at the equipment room where John (Sarge) Keller was hanging up the blue blazers and gray flannels that are traveling mufti of the basketball players. McGuire inspected them, wondered whether university emblems might look better on the jackets than the initials, UNC. Sarge thought the initials were better identification and McGuire nodded. He looked around and said: "Sarge, if Buck and I could run our jobs as well as you run yours, we'd never have any worries."
He stopped at the trainer's room to say hello to Doc John Lacey, expressed the opinion, mildly, that trainers were more important to a team than coaches were. This somehow led to a discussion of athletic hypochondria, which, it developed, is more widespread than people think. McGuire was reminded of his great All-America of last season, Lennie Rosenbluth (now a pro with the Philadelphia Warriors), who, he said, was inclined to take a dim view of his health upon occasion and to deplore out-of-town eating arrangements. Once, said McGuire, the team bus rolled up to a roadside restaurant where reservations had been made. Several players expressed admiration for the looks of the place, but Lennie (said McGuire) remarked: "It looks to me like a great place to pick up a case of ptomaine." Another time, McGuire recalled, Lennie developed a cough which he cultivated almost lovingly. In the dressing room before a game with Wake Forest at Winston-Salem, he achieved all sorts of weird and piteous sound effects with the cough as McGuire sought to deliver last-minute instructions to the squad. Lennie coughed bass, tenor and several voices in between, until, at last, McGuire stopped and turned to him.
"Lennie," he said, "that is the worst cough I have ever heard. You're obviously dying. Now I don't want you to die anyplace but in Chapel Hill. Get dressed, Lennie, and we'll call off the game and drive you home." McGuire put an arm around Lennie and went on: "My boy, I can't promise you that you will live to see the old school again, but I do promise that you'll have the finest three-day Irish wake in the history of North Carolina."
Everybody, except Lennie, laughed, and finally Lennie did too. Then he went out on the court to score 30 points as the Tar Heels beat Wake Forest by a score of 69 to 64. He didn't cough again all evening.
McGuire went on to the dressing room and put on his blue sweater and light gray flannels and sneakers, chatting with the players as he dressed. After the players had gone up to the court, McGuire said: "Maybe those boys weren't the greatest team in the world last year, man for man. But they were the greatest at playing together. They were a disciplined team. To play our kind of basketball, you've got to have discipline above everything else. Basically, we play the same kind of game that I was born to, that I learned from Buck Freeman at St. John's in Brooklyn. It's the New York, the metropolitan kind of game that concentrates on controlling the ball above everything else. One way of explaining it is to say that on offense we've got five forwards, on defense we've got five guards. We cherish that ball. We treat it like a gold piece. We take only the good shots and try to teach every boy to know his good shot.
"Controlling the ball is not freezing it. It's maneuvering for the right opportunity. Actually, we're not committed to the same degree of defensive play in every game. If an opponent is slow, we'll tend to run and shoot a bit. But against a team like North Carolina State two years ago we didn't dare do that. If we had they would have run us all the way back to New York. Now against Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain, I told the team they did not have to take a shot in the entire first half unless they were in position and Chamberlain was not under the basket. Eventually, we were able to draw Chamberlain out to where we wanted him to be."
McGuire started out of the dressing room and walked down the corridor to the steps that led up to the court.
"Basketball," he said, musing aloud, "is a game of mistakes. By controlling the ball you tend to eliminate some of the mistakes."
At the head of the stairs, he stopped and reflected a minute and then went on: "I was talking about discipline and what it meant to our style of playing this game. This discipline rules out the prima donnas and petty jealousies and animosities among the players. One time last year I sensed that there was something wrong among the players. I sent for Lennie Rosenbluth. I told him, 'Lennie, as captain, this is your responsibility. If anything is eating anybody on this team, you'd better call a meeting and thrash it out.' Well, Lennie called the meeting, and afterward he came to me and said, 'We talked things over, coach. You've got nothing to worry about now.'
"It's got to be that way. I've got to be happy when I go home from practice. We can't let one kid who is a pain in the neck spoil things for the rest of us. The players have to enjoy practice. If there is bad feeling or just plain nerves under the pressure of a winning streak—or a losing streak—we've got to do something about it. Last season, at a time when the pressure was greatest, the team and Buck and I decided to bring a record player to the gym. We practiced with a colored ball to music—Sweet Georgia Brown. It gave us a lot of laughs. It loosened us up."
McGuire thrust his hands in his pockets and stared at the floor.
"It took me a long time to learn little things like that," he said, looking up again. "When I started out I was guilty of overcoaching. And I used to get so tightened up that I had a bad effect on the kids. I had a terrible temper. I made a lot of mistakes before I learned to control it."
He smiled at a memory.
"One time in New York, when I was coaching St. John's, I was driving to Madison Square Garden with one of my best friends, Tom Paprocki, the Associated Press cartoonist. A cab cut me off at a stop light and I yelled at the driver. At the next light he cut me off again and I threw open the door and started out to get him. Well, Paprocki grabbed me and dragged me back into the car. Tom's a big man and he can do it. Then he gave me an eating out like I've never had before or since. He said I was a hell of a poor excuse for a coach. He said if I wasn't able to control my temper any better than that I had no right to be handling a team of kids. He said if his kid was playing for me, he'd yank him off the team."
McGuire whistled and hunched his shoulders as if suddenly chilled.
"I didn't speak to Tom the rest of the night. I didn't sleep the rest of the night either. But next day I called him and thanked him. He's still one of the best friends I've got."
McGuire walked across the gymnasium floor and stood watching his players. The national collegiate champions, with the exception of Lennie Rosenbluth, who had graduated, were peppering the basket from all angles. They were a handsome, confident-looking lot: Bob Cunningham of New York City, 6 feet 4; Pete Brennan of Brooklyn, 6 feet 6; Joe Quigg of Brooklyn (this was a few days before he broke his leg in practice, and was lost to the team for this season), 6 feet 9; Tommy Kearns of Bergenfield, N.J., the midget of the regulars, 5 feet 11.
A Strong New York-New Jersey flavor was assured for the 1957-58 squad. From last year's varsity squad, there were Danny Lotz of Northport, Long Island, 6 feet 7; Tony Radovich of Hoboken, N.J., 6 feet 2; Mike Steppe of New York City, 6 feet 3; Harvey Salz, Brooklyn, 6 feet 1. From last year's freshman team had come Ray Stanley of Brooklyn, 6 feet 4; John Crotty of Bayonne, N.J., 5 feet 11. North Carolina was not unrepresented: there were Gerhmann Holland of Beaufort, 6 feet 3; Roy Searcy of Draper, 6 feet 4; Grey Poole of Raleigh, 6 feet 5. From other areas there were Dick Kepley of Roanoke, Va., 6 feet 8; Wally Graham of Miami, 6 feet 1, and Lee Shaffer from Pittsburgh, 6 feet 7. Only three basketball scholarships were granted this year; two went to Brooklyn and one to New Jersey. Since McGuire took over in 1952, scholarships have been offered to 18 North Carolina boys, but only five accepted them.
McGuire mused aloud: "Right-now it looks like Kepley behind Quigg [this became the more likely with the later loss of the 6-foot-9 center], Crotty or Salz behind the backcourt men, Stanley as corner man, Shaffer behind Brennan, or maybe Shaffer will turn out to be a starter." (With a wealth of other material, McGuire will be able to vary his lineups, matching some opponents for height, others for speed.)
The national collegiate champions do not have exclusive use of the gymnasium unless, as happened last year, McGuire holds his practice sessions at night. This season he plans to practice during the afternoons, despite the fact that physical education classes and intramural team workouts will be going on in other parts of the gymnasium. Everyone agrees that a field house is a crying need at Chapel Hill; as things stand now, only about half the student body are admitted to any one game. McGuire himself would like to see a field house (like those pictured on pages 31-34) in which basketball would be just one of the activities that could be accommodated. All such ideas must await the appropriation of state funds for which, presumably, there are other and more urgent needs.
As McGuire stood watching his players, a spectator moved over to him and asked, "Coach, who was the greatest college player you ever saw?"
"Tom Gola of La Salle," McGuire said promptly.
"Gola, eh?" said the man.
Just then Lee Shaffer, looking like a tall Mickey Mantle, bounded up to McGuire to retrieve a ball.
"Lee," said McGuire, "I was just saying that Tom Gola was the greatest player I ever saw."
Shaffer looked at him wonderingly.
"You've got a chance to be as good as Tom Gola, Lee," said McGuire. He tapped his forehead. "As soon as you get a little more up here."
Shaffer grinned and dribbled away, with astonishing grace for his height and weight (215) at 18 years of age. He took a shot with the lazy-looking ease of perfect coordination. He was the leading scorer of last year's freshman team with an average of 22.1 points per game.
"Shaffer," said McGuire, "is a fine student. I was kidding him about something else. He came to me some time ago and wanted my opinion of a car he was going to buy for $1,400. He claimed he had beaten the price down from $1,900. I took a look at it and told him I'd give him a 100 to 1 if he could go out and find a buyer for the car at $700. I doubt if it was worth that. I finally told him that if he wanted to make this ball club, he'd better wait until spring to get a car. He went along with the idea. Lee is very serious about making the team."
"Did you mean it," said the spectator, "when you said he had a good chance to be as good as Gola?"
"Where do you rate Wilt Chamberlain?" the spectator asked.
"The greatest in college basketball today," said McGuire. "And second only to Gola among all the players I've ever seen. That's just my opinion."
The spectator sauntered away and joined a group of onlookers that included (among others) a professor, a dentist, a veterinarian, a retired automobile dealer named Grady Pritchard, an alumnus and a member of the athletic committee that selected McGuire as coach in 1952. Pritchard was telling a story of his student days.
"I was in school," said Pritchard, a rugged-looking, gray-haired man, a native of North Carolina, "with Tom Wolfe, the writer. The reason he comes to mind is that Tom liked basketball and he certainly had the height for it. He went out for the team, but he was too frail. Stood 6 feet 6, but I don't think he weighed any more than 145 pounds."
"I thought he was a very heavy man," a man said.
"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."
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:
"McGuire has dignity and humility. There are some greater charmers in coaching and in every other walk of life. But with a lot of them, it's an obvious act. With McGuire, it's as natural as breathing to be as polite and courteous to a janitor or a porter or a secretary or a waitress as he would be with the governor of the state. McGuire is completely unaffected. He's smooth. If he had come here as a Yankee blowhard, he wouldn't have lasted the first season."
Another man said: "McGuire is the most loyal friend a man could have. One of his boyhood pals went wrong and was sent to prison. Frank went to visit him regularly once a month all during his term and never said a word about it. When he took the coaching job here and they asked him about picking an assistant, he insisted upon his old coach, Buck Freeman. Buck was having some lean days and had no prospects of a job anywhere. Frank told the university authorities that Buck was a basketball genius and he wanted him here even if he had to pay him out of his own pocket."
Next day Frank McGuire was at his desk early. He shares a small office in the gymnasium building with Buck Freeman, who not only serves as No. 2 strategist of the varsity but doubles as self-appointed file clerk and stenographer in handling the mail that pours in on McGuire (sample: a plea for advice from a father of a boy just dropped from his high school basketball squad and brooding over it). McGuire asked Freeman to direct practice that night because he had business in Durham and a later engagement to speak at a dinner of the Brotherhood of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, 50 miles away.
In Durham, McGuire lunched with two old friends: George Hogan, the travel agency man, who until last year was secretary of the Educational Foundation, scholarship-fund-raising organization for the University of North Carolina, and Harry Rosenthal, the jeweler, who was so elated by last year's string of victories that he made a personal award to McGuire of an engraved wristwatch that told time with tiny diamonds instead of hands.
"Frank," said Rosenthal, "tell me this. Who's going to be your captain this season?"
"Harry," said McGuire, "that's been worrying me. Any one of the four starters from last year—Quigg, Brennan, Kearns, Cunningham—is entitled to the job. I just haven't figured it out. It's a tough one and I don't know just what to do."
After lunch, Rosenthal signaled the waitress. "I'll show you," he said to McGuire, "how much you amount to around here." He looked up at the girl. "Miss, do you know who this fellow is?" he said.
The waitress nodded. "Coach McGuire," she said.
Rosenthal puffed on his cigar and then looked up at her. "All right," he said, "that's correct. Now answer me this. Which would you rather have, a dollar tip or Coach McGuire's famous autograph?"
"Why," said the girl, "I'll take the dollar."
Rosenthal slapped the table. "You see what I mean?" he said to McGuire. "You may be hot stuff in Chapel Hill, but you don't amount to very much around here."
After lunch, McGuire stopped at the Immaculata grade school (attended by his daughter, Carol Ann) and prowled the corridors until he spotted Sister Mary Innocent, coach of the basketball team, teaching a class. She came out to greet him.
"How's the team look, Sister?" asked McGuire.
Sister Mary Innocent pursed her lips and replied with a professional air: "Hard to tell, coach. But I think we'll do all right. What we need most is a new basketball."
"I'll take care of it," said McGuire. "Have any of my boys been over to give you a hand?"
"Not yet, coach," said Sister Mary Innocent.
"I'll speak to them," said McGuire. "One or two of them will be over this week."
That evening, McGuire sat at the head table in the auditorium of Temple Emanuel and ate a pot roast dinner. He was reaching for seconds when he was introduced as the man who didn't need an introduction in North Carolina "any more than the President of the United States."
McGuire got up and stayed up for an hour and a half. He replayed the Kansas game for his rapt audience, detailing the final six seconds of the third overtime period in which Joe Quigg sank his two foul shots to put Carolina ahead 54-53 and Tommy Kearns saw two seconds left on the clock and threw the ball to the rafters, figuring it would take two seconds to go up and come back down.
He deprecated the role of the coach on the bench. "I was telling a meeting of 1,800 high school coaches out at Ohio State University last week," he said, "that I sometimes think the best thing I could do on the day of a game is stay home. That way I wouldn't communicate some of my own fears and worries to the players. When I was a player, I didn't know what fear was, but now I do. The thing I try to remember is to leave the players alone as much as possible during a game."
He waited an instant and then said slyly: "After all, I keep telling myself, they must be good or they wouldn't have scholarships."
He told about one of the games with Maryland last year. Maryland was well out in front with less than two minutes to go. And, being a team that holds the ball, it looked like a sure winner. McGuire called a time-out and told his players: "Our streak had to end sometime, and this looks like it. So, fellows, let's lose graciously. When the gun goes off, go right over and congratulate those Maryland boys."
McGuire shook his head sadly. "Our boys went right back and won that game in the last 60 seconds. That shows you how much attention they pay to the coach."
McGuire reminded his audience that North Carolina now held the national championship by one point, the margin of victory over Kansas.
"I was named Coach of the Year," he said, "because of that one point. I was invited to address clinics all over the country because of that one point. Ed Sullivan asked me to stand up at his television show because of that one point. I was invited to address the Executive Club of Charlotte the week after Ed Murrow was there and the week before a leading atomic scientist spoke." McGuire held up a finger. "One point," he said, "and the players and I don't ever forget that that's the difference between us and a lot of teams and a lot of coaches."
Driving back to Chapel Hill, McGuire listened to a question as to the secret of what was now clearly an extraordinary ability to get along with people.
"Well," he said, "I grew up on the sidewalks of New York and you had to get along with all kinds of people. You had to get along with them or fight them. We did considerable getting along and considerable fighting. But I must say, as kids, we never went in for any more deadly weapons than our own two fists. It was a good neighborhood to grow up in. Gene Tunney came from down the street and Carmine DeSapio, who runs Tammany Hall, was from the neighborhood. Most of the kids turned out well, but a few turned out not so well.
"A lot of kids from our neighborhood became policemen. If I hadn't gone in for athletics, I might have become a cop myself. I'm a police buff. I guess I know as many policemen as anybody in New York.'
"That reminds me of a story," he said. "Whenever I'm connected with any game in Madison Square Garden, like the one recently when I coached the College All-Stars, I get an awful lot of calls for tickets from old friends of mine. None of them realizes how the requests pile up. But I try to take care of them. One time I had a lot of requests and I called up a ticket man I know at the Garden and told him I wanted 60 tickets, 30 on one side of the Garden and 30 on the other.
"He asked me to hold the phone and when he came back, he said, 'Frank, I can't split them up that way. But I can give you 60 on one side of the Garden, all of them together.' I told him that wouldn't do. He said, 'Why not? You still get 60 seats. What difference does it make if they're all together?'
"I told him. 'Jack,' I said, 'these are for friends of mine. Now half of my friends are cops and the other half are robbers. I can't have the cops and robbers sitting together!' "
The Cadillac turned in at a restaurant on the highway just outside of Chapel Hill.
"I'm hungry," said McGuire as he got out of the car. "I never did get seconds of that pot roast tonight."
In a booth inside the restaurant, McGuire studied the menu. Suddenly, he looked up and said: "It just came to me how I'll solve that problem of picking a captain this season. Instead of trying to settle on one of the men from last year's team, I'll make them all captains. That solves my problem. They can rotate."
The waitress was waiting for his order. McGuire smiled off into space, obviously pleased with his decision.
"What's it going to be, Coach McGuire?" the waitress said finally.
McGuire looked up at her. "What," he said, "do you hear from that husband of yours?"
The girl beamed. "He's being discharged from the service next month, Coach McGuire. He'll be flying home from Japan any day now."
"He's never seen the baby, has he?" said McGuire.
"No, sir," said the girl.
"Looks like quite a Christmas at your house," McGuire said.
"Oh, it certainly does, Coach McGuire," the girl said. "Now what are you going to eat? Barbecue? Country ham and grits? Southern fried chicken with some nice hot hush puppies?"
McGuire looked at the menu again.
"Why," he said, "I think I'll have the sirloin steak." He pointed to the menu. "This one here," he said. "The New York cut."