The car rolled to a stop in front of an old, deteriorating store. A small "antiques" sign on the door was the only thing that distinguished it from nearby abandoned buildings.
"I've got to check this place out," said the driver as he opened the car door. "This is where you sometimes can find the real buys."
Soon Al McGuire, dressed in cords, motorcycle jacket and tennis shoes ("These store owners must think I'm a bum") was bartering over a $6 handmade, wood-handled ice tong. "O.K.," McGuire finally said, "you've got a deal. You're asking too much, but I want something to remember this trip by."
To those who think of McGuire as a combination street hustler, standup comic and half-hearted basketball coach at Marquette, it is probably difficult to visualize him as an antique collector.
But McGuire has been careful to separate his private and public images during his 13-year tenure at Marquette. The public knows much about his love for motorcycles, one-line jokes and city players, but it know little about his business acumen [WORD ILLEGIBLE] a self-made millionaire) or his [WORD ILLEGIBLE] antiques (he specializes in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] antique tools).
His sometimes irrelevant [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] approach to basketball [WORD ILLEGIBLE] overshadowed the fact that [WORD ILLEGIBLE] has one of the sharpest, most [WORD ILLEGIBLE] minds in the sport. He [WORD ILLEGIBLE] miss the need for intricat [WORD ILLEGIBLE] with a shrug of his shoulders [WORD ILLEGIBLE] spends far more time than he will let on worrying about the game's future.
During a four-hour antique hunt last weekend through the rolling hills of western Virginia, McGuire discussed some of the major problems confronting the sport he is leaving at the end of this season to enter private business. The result is an insight into the serious side of a man who says he really isn't a coach, "just a master of ceremonies."
"I'm more optimistic about basketball than I was four or five years ago," said McGuire at one point. "Maybe we aren't a bunch of dummies after all. Things are starting to sink in. This can be the dominant sport of them all if we don't mess it up."
Unlike many of his peers, McGuire didn't become bitter when player agents became heavily involved in college basketball at the end of the 1960s. He recognized that agents were necessary for many players, and he didn't interfere when some of his best athletes (Jim Chones, Larry McNeill, Maurice Lucas) became hardship draft choices.
But now McGuire thinks that some agents have gone too far. "I know that some agents are starting to pay players to go to college," he said. "They give him maybe $10,000 over four years, then they help him sign a pro contract and everyone makes a bundle.
"You see it happening more and more. You've got to wonder why a certain player winds up at Podunk U. I can tell you now who will represent certain kids even though they are still playing in college."
McGuire would like to see two reforms regarding agents. One is the formulation of a blacklist. "If an agent is dishonest, every player should know about it and every school should know about it," he said. "I was offered 1 1/2 to 2 per cent for helping to land Dean Meminger with an agent. That's wrong."
McGuire also believes schools should set up advisory committees comprising economic and law professors to aid players in selecting agents.
"Let a player submit three or four agents' names and have the committee investigate them and select the most qualified one," he said. "It would put an end to the whispering campaigns, the meetings in the bus stops and washrooms. We're creating a lot of problems by not getting agents out in the open.
"Look at me and Bo Ellis. The NCAA says I can't help him in a legal way with agents. So he's left on his own. It's not right."
If agents don't mess up the game, McGuire thinks statistics might.
"Statistics are the cancer of basketball," he said as he pulled away from another antique store. "Everyone is so aware of shots taken, time played. They think, 'If I can get six points in five minutes, what could I do in 40 minutes?' So everyone wants to play more.
"I tried to stop making our statistics public about six years ago. You would have thought I was the original Nixon. So now I've got mothers calling me and telling me Johnny should score more.
"Maybe we should start keeping statistics for warmups. You know, Johnny made five of six before the game. That way everyone has numbers and all the parents are happy."
He also sees two major rule changes within the next decade: implementation of a three-point, ABA-like shooting circle and a time clock during the last five minutes.
"It would also help coaches and the game if they would electrify the rim," he said with a big grin. "That way, guys would be really careful when they dunk. It would cut out the show-boating."
In seven hours, Marquette would play Virginia Tech in what McGuire later called the Warriors' most important game of the year. Although the Gobbler coaches were already in their offices, reviewing strategy, McGuire was eating a hot dog and talking about the future role of basketball coaches.
"In maybe 15 or 20 years, we're going to have superconference of 60 or 70 schools," he said. "The rest will operate on an intramural level. Their players will be picking the coaches, who will be mostly taxicab drivers and equipment managers.
"Nobody will want dictator coaches like me. Everyone wants their hands held now. My way was right for the 'Burn, baby, burn' era, but today the college players have turned back to pizza parties.
"I tell my players, "The only time I want to see you is when you are involved in a felony. But not for misdeameanors or traffic tickets.'
"Most players want coaches to take care of hangnails. Cruelness is out. You can't be honest anymore and tell a kid he isn't good. They all want to think they can be stars."
McGuire's great strength always has been his ability to relate to players, especially intercity black athletes. Today's coaches, he says, "wear sports coats and like parents. I'm getting out at the right time."
The antique shop had been closed for three months because of the cold weather. But McGuire convinced the owner to let him in after he opened up a sports section and pointed to his picture.
"That's me," he said. "See, I'm honest."
While he debated whether to buy a $290 stainglass lamp ("It's only worth $150, tops") he talked about honesty - as practiced by referees and recruiters.
"I know people think I hate refs," he said, "but I don't. By and large, they do a good job. I'd rather have coaches get out of the officiating area. We should have no say about who refs our games, nor should we critique them. If we left the politics out of it, they'd be able to concentrate more on what they are doing.
"If you don't like how the officials are operating, fire the commissioners, not them. It's the commissioners who are telling them what kind of job they are doing."
McGuire once thought illegal recruiting was overwhelming college basketball. BUt now he thinks new NCAA rules, which limit recruits to visiting a maximum of six schools, "are putting us on the right road.
"Next we should tell schools that if they bring in a kid for a visit, he automatically has a scholarship from that school if he wants it. Too many kids are left hanging, thinking there's a scholarship when there isn't.
"And schools should be limited as to how many kids they can bring in on visits. They shouldn't be allowed to bring in 40 a year."
He decided not to buy the lamp but he instead gave the store owner two tickets for the basketball game. Then he got into the car and headed back to the motel.
"I wanted to leave in November," he said, "and let Hank (Raymonds, who will coach Marquette next year) take over. But the board of directors wouldn't buy it.
"So I announced I was leaving anyway. Now the players don't fear me anymore, and that's why we are losing.
"Still, it's been a good run. We took an urban university and moved it into the sunlight. We gave it some glitter and sparkle.
"But everyone is writing about me, and not about Butch (Lee) or Bo. It's hurting them. You have to feel good when people write nice things but these kids are only stars at Marquette once. I've been here 13 years."
And what will he miss most?
"Well, my wife will miss her free parking space," he said. "And I'll miss knowing that as soon as basketball season is over I could look forward to seven months of vacation."