With former players alongside state and local dignitaries on hand, South Carolina Basketball Legends Weekend opened with a street topping ceremony at the Colonial Life Arena in which the 800, 900 and 1000 block of Greene Street between Assembly and Gadsden Street was renamed McGuire Way, in honor of USC coaching legend Frank McGuire.
Carol Ann Morgan, McGuires daughter, found it tough to put into words what this meant to the McGuire family.
Its extremely humbling; its almost overwhelming, Morgan said. This is a big deal, and he would be so proud. He would get a kick out of this. I tell people it would be the one street he would recognize because he could never find his way around Columbia.
Before the unveiling of the street sign, a nearly 45-minute program was held to honor the winningest coach in South Carolina history. A video narrated by Bob Fulton, the long-time Voice of Gamecock athletics, was played and showed McGuire dressed as sharp as any movie-star or politician.
Several McGuire Era players were on hand to honor their former coach. Alex English and Mike Dunleavy were in attendance after not being able to attend earlier reunion weekends due to prior professional commitments.
When I heard about the ceremony and dedication, I had to cancel some things on my schedule to make it out here, but there was no question I wanted to be here, said Dunleavy, who now lives in Los Angeles. (McGuire) was such an instrumental part of my life. The memories and being able to see all these great friends I have brings back several of the better times and emotions of my life.
English left South Carolina as the all-time leading scorer before being surpassed by B.J. McKie. Even though English is a Columbia native, he had to clear his calendar to make it back for his first reunion.
Coach deserves this because he was the beginning of the basketball program here, English said. He brought in a lot of great players and taught a lot of great lessons. He was probably one of the ones that spearheaded a lot of the growth here at South Carolina, and this honor is long, long overdue.
George Felton, who played under McGuire and later coached at South Carolina, echoed his former teammates words.
This means the world because were here because coach McGuire really started basketball here, Felton said. He brought great tradition to South Carolina, and Im very honored and privileged because I played here and I was able to coach at my alma mater. ... Were happy about coach Frank Martin but most importantly we want to see coach McGuires name live on.
USC athletics director Ray Tanner has made bringing back former athletes to USC one of his top priorities.
I realized many years ago how important it was, especially at the University of South Carolina, Tanner said. This is a lot of fun and a great weekend. I love it when a lot of our athletes come back. This is honoring the Frank McGuire Era players.
Tanner wanted to remind each player how much their contributions mean to the present day players.
This is their school, Tanner said. They have their fingerprints on this program and this is where they put roots down. It will always be their school and its important they embrace it every opportunity they get.
Martin, in his second year with the Gamecocks, wants his players to embrace the past.
Our guys need to understand how lucky they are that they get to wear a uniform that so many of you wore before them, Martin said. Because of your sacrifice and your success we get to use things that are second to none. You made this a better place for us, and our objective is to uplift our program once again.
More than 130 former players are expected to attend this weekends Legends Reunion. The events will include an autograph signing on the Colonial Life Arena concourse between 3:15-3:45 before a pregame ceremony honoring those former players on the court before South Carolina faces Mississippi at 4:30.
But the most important part of the weekend could be honoring McGuire and his 283 wins at USC. English, who played and coached in the NBA, was looking forward to the reunion.
Im seeing people I havent seen in decades, English said. Im looking forward to just hanging out and talking to them and catching up but the biggest thing I will take away from this weekend is those relationships and life lessons coach McGuire taught us.