Babe McCarthy

ABA Teams:  New Orleans (1967-68 to 1969-70), Memphis (1970-71 to 1971-72), Dallas (1972-73), Kentucky (1973-74)

Babe "Magnolia Mouth" McCarthy was one of the ABA's most beloved characters. He was also the dean of ABA coaches. In the first year of the ABA, McCarthy coached his New Orleans Buccaneers to a 48-30 record, and then beat Denver and Dallas in the Western Division Playoffs, before losing in seven games to Pittsburgh for the league title. He was the first ABA coach to reach the 200 victory plateau. During his seven years of ABA coaching, he was named ABA Coach of the Year twice (1969 and 1974), and coached in three ABA All-Star Games (1968, 1970, and 1974). Before coaching in the ABA, McCarthy had coached at Mississippi State, where his teams won 169 games, lost 85, and won or shared four SEC championships. In March 1975, McCarthy passed away as a result of colon cancer.

McCarthy was affectionately known as 'Ol Magnolia Mouth because of his so-called "honey-dew Mississippi drawl." In fact, Babe could always be counted on to come up with appropriate "Babe-isms" during games to motivate his players. "Babe-isms" were short funny phrases that earned McCarthy his nickname. A few of the more famous (and often used) Babe-isms were:

"Boy, I gotta tell you, you gotta come out at 'em like a bitin' sow,"

"My old pappy used to tell me the sun don't shine on the same dog's butt every day,"

"Why panic at five in the mornin' because it's still dark out?" and

"Now, let's cloud up and rain all over 'em."

From Jim O'Brien's 1971-72 Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball:
Management varies for the Bucs/Pros franchise - from city to city, nickname to nickname.  Only McCarthy matters.   Sole constant in fragile franchise.  Only coach who remains of original bunch on the bench when ABA began nearly five years ago.  McCarthy's kept the team together with firm fist, when he was signing them to contracts, with a loose one, really a glad hand, when he was congratulating them on their play, or patting them on the back.   Has always gotten most out of this team. Boasts about how cheap they came, how high-priced they perform.  Never has much money to throw around carelessly. Knocks all the high-priced failures when he gets chance.  Smooth talker, with good sense of humor, fondness for spirits and good time, and love of his game.  A good, old riverbottom country boy.  Must know what he's doing, just going by his staying power in a precarious position for many others who've preceded him to end of plank.  
Season ABA Team Regular Season Playoffs
1968-69 New Orleans 48-30 10-7
1968-69 New Orleans 46-32 4-7
1969-70 New Orleans 42-42 -
1970-71 Memphis 41-43 0-4
1971-72 Memphis 26-58 -
1972-73 Dallas 28-56 -
1973-74 Kentucky 53-31 4-4


Sound Clip -- May 1974: McCarthy reacts to being fired by Kentucky despite a 53-win season.

Just before the 1973-74 regular season, "Ole Babe" took over the reigns of the Kentucky Colonels. He coached the team to a stellar 53-31 record (winning more games than he had in any other season). In January 1974, he even coached the ABA East All-Stars to a 128-112 win in the ABA All-Star Game in Norfolk, Virginia. Despite all of this, Kentucky's owners expected only one thing: a long-awaited championship ring.

Unfortunately, a mid-season trade engineered by management (and made without McCarthy's knowledge) disrupted the team's chemistry. The trade brought John Roche, a fine young guard, to the Colonels. However, Kentucky gave up two valuable players who often started for McCarthy: Wendell Ladner and Mike Gale. During the latter stages of the 1973-74 regular season, the Colonels struggled to find their identity. In the first round of the 1974 ABA Playoffs, everything seemed fine, as the Colonels cruised past Carolina in a sweep. But in the second round, Kentucky lost four straight games to Julius Erving and the New York Nets. This shocking playoff failure prompted McCarthy's dismissal.

Streaming RealAudio file -- RealPlayer plug-in required (free download here)
Clip courtesy of Van Vance and used with permission


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