1977 College Basketball Recap
Three years after playing and losing its first NCAA Final to North Carolina State, Marquette returned to the championship game in 1977 and beat North Carolina for the title.
The Warriors (25–7) ended the season with more losses than any previous NCAA champion, but they won the title knowing their biggest loss would come after their last game. Coach Al McGuire was retiring after 13 seasons at the Milwaukee school.
The colorful McGuire was as New York City as you could be—a native who played for both St. John's and the Knicks—but North Carolina had a huge influence on his career. His only other college head coaching job had been a seven-year stint at Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C.
Still another North Carolina school, N.C-Charlotte, almost beat McGuire in the semifinals, but Butch Lee and Jerome Whitehead saved the game. With three seconds left, Lee heaved a court-length pass to Whitehead (off the fingertips of UNCC's Cornbread Maxwell) for the dunk and a 51–49 win.
The championship game was somewhat easier on McGuire's heart. More in control of his emotions than in the 1974 Final (when he picked up two technical fouls) McGuire kept his cool until the last minute when he broke down and wept as Marquette claimed the title by nine points.