It's been 11 years away from the NCAA tournament for Al McGuire, but, thanks to CBS, he's returning next week.
McGuire, whose last tournament game was the 1981 final between Indiana and North Carolina, will be an analyst, paired with play-by-play man Dick Stockton, for first- and second-round games in Milwaukee, near his home.
At NBC, he and Billy Packer formed an entertaining analyst team. Packer's proclivity for going heavy on the X's and O's was balanced by McGuire's attention to just about everything but. Packer moved on to CBS, got a little better and got a lot more exposure as that network took over college basketball. McGuire stayed at NBC, suffered from his partner's absence and faded as his network started to leave the college game behind.
"I was retired one weekend, and the next weekend I got the call from [CBS Sports executive producer] Ted Shaker," McGuire said during a news conference Wednesday.
McGuire soon found himself in a CBS production meeting for the tournament, and it was quite different from 11 years ago.
"The meeting we had at NBC, we had a handful of people," he said. "Last weekend, we had a meeting with Ted Shaker, and there were over 100 people there. [The production is] just an avalanche of Technicolor."
What will McGuire do amid the avalanche?
"I just plan to be Al McGuire," he said.
Sometimes, that's enough. For example, during the news conference, McGuire said of his age: "I got more moss on me than Rip Van Winkle" and in praising the character of Temple's coach: "John Chaney's not one of those guys with $500 suits and no underwear."
Though McGuire might not remember Delaware's top scorer or rattle off Princeton's tournament history, he'll add personality.
"Away from the marquee, I'm a loner," he said. "When you put the little red light on, I perk up a little bit."
A little bit? That might be the only understatement you'll ever hear from McGuire.
Meeting of the minds: Packer and McGuire will be reunited electronically Sunday during halftime of the Indiana-Purdue game, which begins at 2:45 p.m. Packer, from New York, and McGuire, from Milwaukee, will get together for a brief discussion, likely centering on the works of Descartes. . . . The scribbling into brackets starts a little after 6:30 p.m. Sunday with CBS' NCAA tournament selection show. Channel 11, which wrapped the selections into a newscast last year, plans to telecast the entire program.
Lest we forget: Enough of this basketball. The Orioles make their exhibition season television debut tonight at 7 on Channel 2.
Nickname at night: Who was that well-tanned fellow on ESPN's "SportsCenter" Wednesday night? It was none other than Chris "He's Returnin' " Berman.
After Berman issued a spring training report filled with his trademark nicknames, including Gary Redus "A Story" -- is that a sign it's time to stop? -- fellow anchor Mike Tirico said, "Now, baseball season officially has begun."
Berman's previous "SportsCenter" appearance was last March. During football season, he is limited to "NFL GameDay" and "NFL Prime Time," and, in baseball season, he calls games and is one of the hosts of "Baseball Tonight."
So, with his infrequent "SportsCenter" gigs, maybe he was a little excited Wednesday. He certainly sounded a bit too wound up.
During highlights from a Montreal Canadiens-Quebec Nordiques game, he either was babbling in French or someone had sneaked onto the set and was goosing him. Either way, I couldn't make out what he was trying to say.
45 gets no shot: Channel 45, carrying the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament today, didn't have the option of televising last night's Maryland-Clemson game. ESPN held exclusive rights.
America (or me) first: "I have some news for you," the boss said.
A new assignment perhaps? A new picture to run with my column (say, Mel Gibson's)?
"The Nintendo group trying to buy the Mariners has grown frustrated with baseball's stance on the sale. The group has decided on a media purchase -- your column."
Well, you could have knocked me out of my chair. (If I'd been sitting on one, that is. The boss doesn't like me on his furniture.)
"From now on, it'll be Super Mario Radio-TV Sports. It'll be the world's first interactive newspaper column. Readers who make it through the first paragraph -- many more since you won't be writing it anymore -- then can choose from several options. There's the best of Rudy Martzke, Norman Chad's greatest hits, a collection of Brent Musburger rips. . . ."
I didn't hear the rest. I just skulked out of the office. But the boss soon followed, frowning. It seemed the deal was off. The Nintendo people decided to buy into the Happy Eater instead. Whew.