SI Vault
Gerald Holland
December 09, 1957
Coach Frank McGuire, formerly of Greenwich Village, has been enthusiastically adopted as North Carolina's very own, along with a team he imported from Greater New York
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December 09, 1957

Dixie's Yankee Hero

Coach Frank McGuire, formerly of Greenwich Village, has been enthusiastically adopted as North Carolina's very own, along with a team he imported from Greater New York

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A little after one o'clock in the morning on Sunday, March 24, 1957, a form of mass hysteria appeared to seize the citizens of North Carolina. In cities, towns and villages all across the state, people suddenly rushed out of their houses and began to dance in the streets. Yelling at the top of their lungs, they built bonfires in the public squares. School and firehouse bells rang out, and hastily assembled street bands blared rousing southern marches.

The excitement was greatest in the beautifully wooded town of Chapel Hill, where the biggest bonfire of all was ignited smack in the middle of Main Street. It was down this same Main Street that an especially jubilant man was seen to come riding through the thick of the traffic and the snake dancers. He stood out because he was riding, not inside an automobile, but on top of one. As he jumped up and down and shouted and waved his arms, the crowd recognized him and gave him a special cheer. He was the chancellor of the University of North Carolina.

What had inflamed the chancellor and his fellow citizens was something they had seen on their television screens a little earlier that night. It was one of the most exciting games in basketball history and in it the University of North Carolina Tar Heels had defeated the University of Kansas for their 32nd straight victory and the national collegiate championship.

Back home in North Carolina (the game had been televised from the Auditorium in Kansas City), the celebration went on through the night, and later that same Sunday more than 10,000 men, women and children descended upon the Raleigh-Durham airport to welcome the team home. And when the heroes came down the steps from the plane, the roar that went up from the 10,000 fairly crackled with Dixie's pride in its own.

Actually, however, the heroes hailed from no part of the South, but from Brooklyn, The Bronx and other points in Greater New York. They were coached by a man who was reared in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, the son (and 13th child) of a New York City traffic cop. All of them together, in strict terms of geographical origin, were as out of place in their University of North Carolina jackets as hush puppies on a dinner table in Boston.

The story of how North Carolina had wholeheartedly adopted this band of invaders out of the North is more than a story of the 32 games and the national championship they won. In large part, it is the story of the traffic cop's son, Dixie's favorite Yankee and college basketball's reigning coach of the year—Frank Joseph McGuire.

One evening, on the eve of the 1957-58 season ( North Carolina was scheduled to open against Clemson this week), Frank McGuire sat at the head of the table in the dining nook of the McGuires' brick home on Oakwood Drive in Chapel Hill. Draining his cup of coffee, he set it down and turned to his wife, Pat, a tall, slender brunette who grew up in the Gramercy Park neighborhood of New York City.

"Pat," he said, "that was a delicious dinner."

"Thank you," said Pat McGuire.

"I don't like pork chops," said Carol Ann McGuire, 10, "with pineapple on top of them. I scraped it off."

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