Al McGuire, SJU alum, Queens native, dies

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Former St. John’s basketball standout and Queens native Al McGuire, 72, died Friday morning in Milwaukee. He had reportedly suffered from a blood disorder.

McGuire, who reportedly was battling leukemia, died peacefully surrounded by his family, according to a statement released by his son, Al.

“Our family has marveled over the past months at his inner strength and enthusiasm to live each day to its fullest. Even as his illness wreaked havoc on his body, he remained resolute in mind. He will be deeply missed,” his son said.

McGuire grew up in Rockaway Beach and played with his brother Dick for St. John’s from 1948-51. He helped lead the team to a 65-19 record in three years.

After graduating from St. John’s, McGuire again joined his brother Dick on the New York Knicks from 1951-54 and played for the Baltimore Bullets in 1954-55. But it was in coaching rather than playing where Al McGuire gained fame.

He began his coaching career at Dartmouth in 1954-55 as an assistant and was named head coach at Belmont Abbey College in 1957. After coaching there for seven years, McGuire was named head coach at Marquette University.

“When you coached against him, it was like trying to get Rommel in the desert, you couldn’t catch him,” said St. John’s legendary coach Lou Carnesecca. “He was always five steps ahead. He brought a new light to coaching. He was innovative and entertaining. He helped raise the status of coaching by opening up commercial avenues. He was a great, great bench coach...I thought he was the best.”

In 13 seasons at Marquette, McGuire led the Warriors to 11 postseason tournaments and posted a career mark of 295-80 for a winning percentage of .739 which ranks among the top-20 all-time for Division I coaches.

“The game of basketball, especially college basketball, has lost one of the great ones,” St. John’s head coach Mike Jarvis said. “It is a tremendous loss personally and to the game because Al McGuire is one of the nicest people I ever met.”

McGuire led Marquette, featuring former Knicks standout Dean “The Dream” Meminger to the 1970 NIT title, defeating Carnesecca’s Redmen.

McGuire finished his coaching career in fine fashion in 1971, leading Marquette past Dean Smith and North Carolina, 67-59, to win the NCAA championship.

He was named Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, United Press International, Sporting News and the United States Basketball Writers Association. In 1992 he earned basketball’s highest honor when he was elected to the Hall of Fame, along with Carnesecca.

After his coaching days McGuire went behind the mic and joined NBC in 1977 where he quickly became one of the most beloved analysts for more than two decades. In 1992, McGuire moved to CBS where he worked until last spring.

McGuire is survived by his wife Patricia, three children and six grandchildren.

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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