Alfred (Butch) Lee learned a lot about basketball during the
three years he played for Al McGuire at Marquette. But the most
important thing he learned from the legendary McGuire was how
unimportant the game really is. "Al told us that basketball was
a big thing to us, but it was just a small part of life," Lee
says. "I paid attention to that. I always thought of myself as
more than just a basketball player."
And he was quite a player. Twenty years ago Lee, then a 6-foot,
185-pound junior guard, played 40 minutes and scored 19 points
in the Warriors' 67-59 victory over North Carolina in the NCAA
championship game, and earned the Final Four's most outstanding
player award. The following season he was the college basketball
player of the year, and he finished his career with 1,735
points, which still stands No. 2 on Marquette's alltime list.
"There wasn't one thing that made Butch great," says McGuire,
who retired after Marquette won its first and only NCAA title.
"He was a silent assassin, gentle, lovable, a competitor from
Lee was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and averaged 9.2 points per
game as a rookie, but after the season, while performing simple
stretches on his bedroom floor, he tore cartilage in his right
knee. After riding the bench on the Los Angeles Lakers' 1979-80
championship team, Lee, faced with the specter of slogging his
way through sundry training camps to remain in the NBA, quit
basketball and entered the real estate business. He and a
partner started the Harvey Land and Shelter Company in
Cleveland, where Lee had played briefly as a Cavalier in '79.
Eight years later Butch moved with his wife, Kim, and their son,
Keith, to New York City, where he spent a year at Fordham's law
school. After separating from Kim the following year, he headed
to his native Puerto Rico, where he had played professionally
for several summers. Today Lee is again a businessman--he runs a
nightclub in Ponce called Cafe 149--but he also has been
coaching in a Puerto Rican pro league since '91 and is thinking
of returning to the States to pursue that profession full time.
Lee made it back to Marquette in early March for a halftime
ceremony honoring the 1977 team. "We all went to a pub that
night and played pool. When it was over, I felt like it was time
to go back to the dorms," Lee says. "Over the years, I've come
to appreciate how difficult it is to do what we did. My career
wasn't as long as I wanted it to be, but I was able to be on a
championship team. I don't envy anyone."
April 6, 1997