Coach Al McGuire photo courtesy of the Marquette University Archives

How Al McGuire Changed More than Just a Basketball Uniform

In 1964 Al McGuire came to Marquette University and revolutionized both the team and the sport of college basketball.

At that time Marquette’s basketball program was less than stellar.

During a documentary series created by Marquette Alumni Danny Pudi entitle Untucked, Pudi explores the history behind Marquette’s infamous uniforms.

Photo courtesy of the Marquette University Archives

These blue and gold uniforms were by no means traditional or normal. It may seem odd to Marquette fans, but Marquette’s uniforms were either white or dark colored. They looked nothing like what we see today.

It wasn’t until Bo Ellis was recruited by McGuire did the uniforms began to change.

According to the documentary, McGuire was known for recruiting eccentric players to match his own personality, and Ellis was no exception.

McGuire asked Ellis what he wanted to do with his life and Ellis said that he wanted to become a fashion designer. It wasn’t long after that interaction until Ellis drew up designs for the new basketball uniforms.

These designs were like nothing anyone had ever seen. They were flashy and very controversial among the heads of the NCAA, but McGuire didn’t care.

He decided that his team needed to stand out and encouraged Ellis to follow his dreams of fashion. Marquette didn’t have a fashion program so McGuire allowed Ellis to enroll in a fashion program at Mount Mary University.

“How many other coaches would allow his students to go to another school?”
Marquette University Mens basketball team posing in costumes from the Milwaukee Repertory Theater 1975. Courtesy of the Marquette University Archives.

Under McGuire, the team was doing things that no one ever thought they would do.

McGuire didn’t just change the uniforms he also changed the way he recruited. A quote from the Untucked documentary said, “Al would go into the hood and recruit players.”

There was something about the way McGuire gave all students, no matter their race, the opportunity to shine both on and off of the court. During the 1970’s there were not many black men getting involved in the world of fashion.

Bo Ellis was a pioneer not only in college basketball uniforms but in the world of fashion too. McGuire did more than just take a losing team and make them winners. He looked past the racism and stereotypes of the time and encouraged a young black man to follow his dreams.

McGuire giving Bo Ellis instructions on the court. Photo courtesy of the Marquette University Archives.