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Sportscaster Dick Enberg’s ‘McGuire’ returns to North Coast Rep, Feb. 9-10

Cotter Smoth reprises his role as sports giant Al McGuire.
Cotter Smoth reprises his role as sports giant Al McGuire.
( / Courtesy)

Richard Alan “Dick” Enberg is a distinguished American sportscaster for networks NBC, CBS and ESPN, and since 2009 has provided the play-by-play for telecasts of San Diego Padres baseball on Fox Sports San Diego. Enberg is one of only two American broadcasters selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Basketball Hall of Fame, and in July 2015, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Enberg has won many awards, including 14 Emmy Awards in three categories — broadcasting, writing and producing — and recently added “playwright” to his many talents. His one-man show, “McGuire,” will run two nights at the North Coast Repertory Theater, Feb. 9-10.

Among the many personal relationships Enberg has experienced with professional athletes, he said he was particularly enamored by Alfred James “Al” McGuire, head coach of the Marquette University men’s basketball team, 1964-1977. McGuire won a national championship at Marquette, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, and was a longtime national television basketball broadcaster, known for his colorful personality.

“I got to know McGuire when he joined me and Billy Packer in a three-man broadcast team for NBC,” Enberg said. “The more I got to know McGuire, the more he became the most unforgettable character I’ve ever met. He was a New York Street genius and saw light from a different angle.”

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Enberg said he never considered himself a playwright, but when McGuire died in 2001, his family asked Enberg to write the notes for the memorial program. “It was a daunting task,” he said. “I was throwing one paper after another into the fire. Then I realized McGuire was so brilliant in terms of life lessons, I’d let him write it himself. I recalled the things he had taught me — his phrases, his unique way to see life — and that’s how I produced the memorial page.”

Enberg knew there was more about McGuire he wanted to record, and eventually, he wrote a chapter about McGuire in his own book “Dick Enberg: Oh My!”

“In remembering more stories he told me, I realized there was enough for a play. He really wrote the play because it’s all his stuff. I just reorganized it and that’s how the play developed.”

Cotter Smith reprises his role as McGuire in the one-man show, directed by his wife, Heidi Mueller-Smith. Cotter Smith’s theater credits include Broadway’s “An American Daughter,” “Burn This,” and “How I Learned to Drive.” His television and film credits include Robert Kennedy in the mini-series “Blood Feud” and “Brothers and Sisters,” and the feature film “X2: X-Men United.”

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“I appreciate Cotter taking time from his busy career to once again play McGuire,” Enberg said.

Enberg’s handiness for writing a screenplay came from the way he looks at his broadcasting.

“A broadcaster works with numbers — No. 42 made a tackle, No. 7 hit the home run, or No. 22 just made a basket — for the enjoyment of those listening, you need them to care about these players. So I look at a particular game, like football, in four acts, concentrate on the players and how they deal with it, and then in the end, develop whether it’s a crime, upset or whatever.”

Enberg said he got good reviews when the play was previously performed at the North Coast Rep. “I was surprised that a lot of women, who were dragged to the performance by their sports fan husbands, came up after the show to tell me they enjoyed the play because it’s about more than a coach or basketball, it’s about a man who had this incredible philosophy of life and was able to get through a lot of the barbed wire we encounter to find the truth on the other side.”

Enberg still reflects on all the lessons McGuire taught him. “He had so many expressions that were so true about life,” Enberg said. “One of them was about a right-hand turn in life. We tend to get on the same road and always follow that path. When McGuire was coaching in Milwaukee, instead of making the left turn that took him into the city, he took a right turn to go into the beautiful Wisconsin countryside for an unplanned day to let life come to him. This is a wonderful lesson for all, get in the car and drive someplace you have never been.”

Enberg followed McGuire’s advice several years ago when the family moved to La Jolla. “We decided to move closer to our kids’ school, Bishop’s. After thinking Mount Soledad or by the water, we picked a spot in the Village. I wanted to be able to walk, go to the market, post office or elsewhere. I embrace La Jolla and it does the same for me.

“Now and then, I meet a fan who watched the game last night and comments on it. Yet, unlike other places, no one here has bothered me for an autograph at a restaurant when I’m eating. They know who I am and respect my privacy. It’s a beautiful place.”