Saturday, March 29, 2003

Marquette conjures up glory days

McGuire recalled for his 'Seashells and Balloons' year

The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS - Al McGuire's colorful personality, volatile coaching style, creative vernacular and long run of success made him a coaching legend.

Coach Tom Crean welcomes any comparisons to Marquette's glory days under McGuire, who guided the school to 20-win seasons 11 times and a national title.

"Somebody asked me a week or two ago, `Do you feel like you are finally out from under the aura of Al?' I said, `I sure hope not,' " Crean recalled Friday.

For the first time since that magical 1977 championship season - one McGuire referred to as "Seashells and Balloons" for the pleasure it provided - Marquette has advanced to an NCAA regional final.

To get back to the Final Four for the first time since the days of McGuire, Butch Lee and Bo Ellis, the Golden Eagles (26-5) will need to play their best game of what has been a great season.

Standing in their way today is Kentucky (32-3), which has won 26 straight.

McGuire, who died in 2001, is always with the Golden Eagles, who wear an "Al" right at the V on the front of their jerseys. A new basketball practice facility bearing his name will open on the Milwaukee campus this fall.

"I never looked at it like it's an image to uphold or a tradition to uphold or a ghost to get rid of," Crean said.

"That man was so good to me for a year and a half, and I wouldn't trade that. He treated me so well and taught me so much about the job and basketball and dealing with life as a coach and family and things."

Crean, 36, a former assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State, wasted little time getting Marquette back in the national spotlight. In just his fourth season, he has put together a talented team with size, speed and one of the best all-around players in the country in guard Dwyane Wade.

Wade scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half Thursday when the Golden Eagles beat Pittsburgh 77-74.

Wade and his teammates weren't even born when Marquette marched to a national title 26 years ago, beating North Carolina-Charlotte and then North Carolina to claim the championship as McGuire sat weeping on the bench at game's end.

"You can't get tired of hearing about the '70s. That was a great time," Wade said.

"I think all of us cherish that, especially when we get to see players who played back then, to know the legacy Al McGuire left.

"And it's a great legacy to be part of. To wear that jersey is a great feeling."

Wade, a tough defender with an excellent mid-range shot and strength to drive to the basket, is one piece of the backcourt. The other is the unflappable Travis Diener, who scored 55 points in Marquette's victories over Holy Cross and Missouri.

"One of the major reasons I chose Marquette was because I trusted he (Crean) was going to build the program up," Diener said.

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