In a world where “bad” meant good, and “fly” wasn’t something that birds did, standing out was a large part of the youth culture and it was evident with the Marquette University basketball team. It all started with head coach Al McGuire in 1964; described as “unique” and “eccentric” by his players, McGuire added a sense of swagger and bravado to the Marquette basketball team and his first step with that was through his recruiting. One of coach McGuire’s biggest recruits in 1973 was another eccentric young man name Maurice “Bo” Ellis, and from that point on the two trailblazers would go on to build a legacy that would last for the ages.
Between odd photo shoots, and letting players-particularly Bo Ellis-attend other schools to pursue passions it would seem as if Al McGuire was running a circus from the outside. This assumption, however, was far from the truth in terms of basketball. Player Jim Boylan was quoted saying, “People would look at us from the outside and think, ‘we were just a bunch of wild guys, undisciplined, wearing these crazy uniforms, with a crazy coach’, but really on the inside, we were the most disciplined team I’ve ever been around”. It was that discipline on the basketball court and that freedom outside of the court that allowed the team to be successful and when coach McGuire let Bo Ellis design a jersey, that’s when all of the pieces of the puzzle were in place.
After telling coach McGuire that he wanted to be a fashion design major, Bo Ellis was granted permission to attend Mount Mary college in Milwaukee to take classes in fashion design. A move that most if not all division one basketball coaches would not have made. This added, yet, another element of “outside the boxness” to the zany Marquette basketball program. It was one day when a teammate asked coach McGuire if Bo Ellis could design one of the teams jerseys and after a pause coach McGuire gave Bo the green light and let him design the jersey. After a late night in the dorm room Bo finally came up with his masterpiece, the “untucked” jersey.
In the 1977 basketball season, coach McGuire would retire and in his last game coached, the team would go on to win the NCAA National Championship. In a season that will unlikely ever be similar, the 1977 Marquette Warriors displayed a combination of controlled chaos, expressive style, and brand of basketball that we might never see again. The alternate jersey phenomenon has taken off ever since and it is a result of the ingenuity that both Bo Ellis and coach Al McGuire displayed that magical season.