McGuire honored at gala event

It was the greatest era of basketball in school history and an honor long overdue.
Friday evening in a Colonial Life Arena concourse packed with legendary former players and coaches, the legacy of the program's greatest coach was honored with speeches, resolutions and the official dedication of "Frank McGuire Way" for the stretch of Greene Street running from Assembly to Gadsden Streets.
On hand was a crowd of approximately 200 that included some of the biggest names in Gamecock basketball history - Alex English, Mike Dunleavy, Bobby Cremins and many more including former coaches Eddie Fogler and George Felton. From the political world, Sens. John Courson and Nikki Setzler, Reps. James Smith, Todd Rutherford, and Beth Bernstein and Columbia mayor Steve Benjamin attended.
Representing Frank McGuire was his daughter, Carol Ann Morgan. McGuire died in 1994 and his beloved son, Frankie, passed away in 2008.
Besides the elected officials who spoke - all of whom were Gamecocks - addressing the crowd were USC athletics director Ray Tanner, head coach Frank Martin, former USC athlete Joe McCulloch, who organized the event, and former players English and Gary Gregor.
Each offered their take on McGuire's legacy and what he meant to them personally and the school.
"I just remember his character and the kind of person that he was," English said. "I was only the second African-American scholarship player here, and I had to learn from the people before me.
"The thing I remember about him most was the way he treated people. He was big-time dresser, a classy man, but he told me, 'The way you tip people, they will always remember you for that. Be humble and treat them well,' and he did that.
"The way he treated his family, Carole Ann and Frankie and his other coaches, that's what I carry with me throughout my life. It doesn't matter the color, it doesn't matter the ethnicity, whatever, you treat them with respect."
English said beyond the memories of playing alongside Brian Winters, Dunleavy and Kevin Joyce, he remembers what sold him on the school to begin with.
"I grew up in Columbia and watched them on TV and I'd see (John) Ribock and I'd see (Tom) Riker and I'd see how nasty they were," English said. "I was here the game when they got into a fight with Marquette, and I guess the guy's name was (Bob) Lackey, you guys hit him or something. It was great.
"That's the one game I came to as a recruit where I said, 'Hey, I'm going there. I'm going there, because it was on a national stage, probably being shown all over the world but yet these guys were out there punching, throwing blows."
Gary Gregor, who led the Gamecocks in rebounding from 1966-68 and holds the school record for rebounds in a game with 35 against Elon in 1966, said the greatest tribute to McGuire wasn't the success on the court but the success of all his players off it after they graduated.
"Coach McGuire leaves a legacy here of players that succeeded in life because of what he taught them," Gregor said. "This was long overdue."
Martin said honoring the greatest basketball legacy in school history means a connection between the past, present and future.
"I'm so thankful for every one of you all," Martin said of the former players in attendance. "It's something that is so important to our program.
"Our guys need to understand just how lucky they are that they get to wear a uniform that so many of you wore before them. Because of your sacrifices, because of your success, we get to use a locker room that's second to none and get to fly around on charter planes to go play.
"It's such a privilege for me to say that I share the same job title as someone like Frank McGuire and I carry the torch and the duty to uplift this program once again to the days that he had. It's all because of the sacrifices of all of you. You've made it a better place for us, and our objective is to uplift our program once again so 20 years from now, 30 years from now, whoever is here can tell you that that group before did it as well as coach McGuire did during his time here."
For Tanner, the night was about honoring a legacy but also about bringing family home.
"I'd like to thank all the players for returning back to your alma mater this weekend," Tanner said. "Carolina will always be your home.
"This is your school, this is your program. We are strengthened by the commitment these legends have made to Carolina athletics. We are where we are today because of them."
Carolina Basketball Legends Weekend continues tomorrow beginning at 3:15 p.m. when legends from the McGuire era will be available for autographs to fans on the concourse at the Colonial Life Arena before South Carolina's game with Ole Miss at 4:30 p.m. A ceremony honoring former players by decade will begin at 4 p.m.
At halftime, the school will honor the 2013 football team's accomplishments with Steve Spurrier addressing the crowd.