A wise man once said, “A team should be a extension of the coach’s personality.”
That man was none other than Al McGuire, the patron saint of Marquette basketball who routinely finished the phrase by saying: “my teams are obnoxious and arrogant.”
More than 30 years have passed since the colorful warrior paced the sidelines, and in that span, no Marquette coach has come even close to matching Al’s charisma and wit.
And then there was Buzz.
Following Friday night’s thrilling victory in Morgantown, Buzz Williams did a little Texas two-step on the court to the song Country Roads as he was heading over to do a TV interview when all hell broke loose.
The West Virginia fans were like rabid dogs, foaming at the mouth for a piece of Buzz and requiring security to restrain them. Twitter blew up both in favor and against Marquette’s head honcho, causing Buzz Williams and Country Roads to trend globally. Even ESPN got a word or two in as SportsCenter host Linda Cohn mentioned her disapproval as the clip was rolling.
It was spontaneous, emotional and controversial all at once, an Al moment if I have ever seen one.
Unlike McGuire, however, Buzz is neither arrogant nor obnoxious. Quite the opposite actually.
Although the national storyline is and will be Buzz’ dance, it shouldn’t be. Just take a look at the sequence of events of Friday night’s festivities.
The ESPN broadcast opened up with the breaking news that three Marquette starters would be suspended for the first half of the game for violating team rules, while a fourth would sit the second half for the same reason.
Benching any of Darius Johnson-Odom, Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue individually would send a statement on its own, but suspending 55 percent of your offense at the same time in a hostile environment is just short of a death wish.
In a profession predicated on wins and losses, it takes some major stones for a coach to sacrifice a potential victory to teach his players a lesson. It should also be noted that Buzz has not hesitated to rule with an iron fist before either, suspending Johnson-Odom and Cadougan a game each for other team violations earlier in the season.
If the act itself didn’t impress you, close your eyes and listen to his reasoning — or for those of you reading the print version, pretend to close your eyes and read his quote as he spoke to Bill Raftery after the game.
“No matter our success, no matter our failure, I’m doing a disservice to our kids if I don’t hold them accountable. My responsibility has to be bigger than winning or losing, it has to be about the rest of their life. The rest of their life as humans, as future fathers, as future husbands, and I think that is my responsibility, and I think that is one of the reasons I have been blessed with this opportunity, and I think I am doing the program, and the institution a disservice if I don’t hold them to what I think is right.”
Back on the hardwood, Buzz and company came out on top in a white knuckler, as Al would say, leaving sweat, sweat and more sweat all over the court. After the customary handshakes, Crowder approached Buzz and the two embraced for a full ten seconds in a pure display of affection.
While all have focused on the dance just minutes after that moment, the hug between the mentor and pupil tells you all you need to know about Buzz as a human being. His player gave it his all on the court and Buzz had to let him know what it meant to him. Players don’t routinely embrace so publicly with their coach after a regular season game, but the circumstances made this anything but a regular game.
Had ESPN gone straight to SportsCenter from here as it normally does, nobody sees the dance, and the hug becomes the lasting image. The narrative now shifts from “Buzz is classless” to “if I had a son, I’d want him to play for that man.”
As if that wasn’t enough, after apologizing for his dance in the press conference, Buzz asked about why he had seen cop cars lined up in Morgantown. When told it was to commemorate a fallen police officer, Sergeant Todd May, he asked for the contact information so he could offer the family his condolences.
To recap, Buzz puts life lessons ahead of victories, gives his players his unconditional affection and goes out of his way to contact the family of a fallen officer.
Don’t let one dance drive the narrative of Buzz as a “classless idiot.” He is not — and will never be — Al, but at the end of the day there is no denying Marquette is lucky to have Buzz at the helm.