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The Quotable Al McGuire


By: Michael Aun


I was only 21 years old and had just been elected Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus in Columbia, SC. Council 724 in Columbia had completed construction of a 16-story high rise for the moderate income ambulatory elderly known as Christopher Towers, which still exists today.

I had invited the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus to be our keynote speaker along with Frank McGuire, then head coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecock men’s basketball team.

That began a lengthy relationship with both men. Supreme Knight Dr. John McDevitt recruited me to go to work with the Knights of Columbus Insurance, a company with which I am still affiliated today, some 45+ years later.

I became friends with Coach McGuire until his death in 1994. It was through that casual friendship that I first got to meet his dear friend and protégé, Al McGuire, who was a highly successful coach at Marquette University. Both McGuire’s won National Championships, Frank at the University of North Carolina and Al at Marquette University. Each are in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Al and I actually became acquainted when we shared the platform together in the late seventies as we spoke to the Columbia, SC Sales & Marketing Executives. We would occasionally cross paths over the years, speaking together to a number of groups, as we shared agents. It was through Al that I met the legendary John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood,” who coached at UCLA during its heyday. 

Today’s millennial generation will not know these men. Unless you are a Baby Boomer, only then would you be acquainted with any of these men.

All three of these men were so quotable, but I spent the most time with Al McGuire. I literally have pages of journal notes of his quotes from speeches over the years.

We were in Maui one year speaking together at an incentive program for an insurance company. “Help one kid at a time. He’ll go back and help a few more.” He was speaking to managers and this was his way of reaching them.

Some of the many Al McGuire quotes I have come to love. “I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cabdriver. Then they would really be educated.”

Winning: “I went into a restaurant one night and ordered lobster, and the waiter brought me one with a claw missing. I called him over and told him about it. He told me that in the back there’s a tank they keep the lobsters in and while they’re in there, they fight and sometimes one loses a claw. I told him ‘then bring me a winner.’”

Humor: “The only mystery in life is why the kamikaze pilots wore helmets.”

Recruiting: “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 has a cracked sidewalk.”

Academics: “Remember, half the doctors in this country graduated in the bottom half of their class.”

Fans: “Every obnoxious fan has a wife at home that dominates him.”

Living life: “Live every day as if it were Saturday night.”

Winning: “Winning is overrated. The only time it is really important is in surgery and war.”

Life: “We rush for the stars as we crawl toward our graves.”

Playing defense: “It bothers me that the average fan, the average sportswriter for that matter, pays so much attention to what’s in a box score. A box score does not properly represent the most important thing – team play. It shows some guy scoring 27 points, but it doesn’t show that my 27-point man let his guy score 30.”

Leaving: “I had my moment on the stage. The trick in life is to know when to leave.”

Scoring: “If winning weren’t important nobody would keep score.”

Reality: “The world is run by C students.”

Regret: “The next time I will cry is when I die. My life has been that beautiful.”

Intelligence: “You measure a player from the head up.”

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