Mack Attack: A Sit Down with Gus Macker Founder Scott McNeal

MOUNT PLEASANT -- With the first collegiate Gus Macker Tournament in the history of the franchise on the horizon, caught up with 1979 CMU alum Scott McNeal, founder and creator of the Gus Macker Tournaments. His thoughts on a variety of topics can be found below. When did you decide that this was something you could do for a very long time and have it become a career?

McNeal: “I was a teacher and a basketball coach after I left Central. When I began this tournament, it was designed with the community in mind. It began getting a lot of national attention in the 80’s before getting a national article published in 1985. National media showed up in my driveway and I realized that I was on to something big. In 1987, I did my first event outside of Lowell and began traveling across the country. At the time, no one was running three-on-three tournaments. Ad agencies and corporations came calling, and people wanted to have it in their community. How special is it for you to come back to CMU and hold your first collegiate tournament at your alma mater?

McNeal: “It is a big deal for the entire corporation. Everything was maroon and gold when we started this tournament. We had maroon and gold jerseys and painted the rims that color just to show our pride in Central Michigan. This event is very important for us, and CMU is a good place to test how it can work at a collegiate level. It was a dream to come back and kick off this endeavor in Mount Pleasant.” What are your ideas to grow this collegiate tournament?

McNeal: “I spoke with various universities from across the country and discovered that current college students are less and less connected with the Gus Macker Tournament. People who are now in their 30s and 50s traveled just to play in these tournaments in college. For one reason or another, there is a disconnection with current college students. Hopefully, this tournament will be the first step in rebuilding that connection. We talked to the National Basketball Coaches Association and they have shown an interest in helping us create a college student only event. I think keeping the community aspect in this tournament will be important to at least have a stable group of people to build this event off of. Western Michigan has an interest in doing this as well and they want to see what kind of turnout we get at CMU. Eventually, we envision holding a tournament between the winners of both schools to add a branch to the rivalry between the two schools. What’s your favorite part about the tournaments?

McNeal: “Getting people together and seeing everyone have a good time. I feel this is one of the few events where the parents and kids have an equal interest in. The main goal is to have fun and I think we accomplish that. We came up with a concept called “Dream Court”, where we set up a synthetic court and announce a game like it’s on the radio. We’ll have one of these for the college game and one for the youth. We’ll have someone describe each person’s game and just have fun in front of a microphone. I have a lot of fun with the “Dream Court” every year. Once I couldn’t be Melvin McLaughlin on the court, I wanted to be Dick Enberg with the microphone off it.” What are the proudest moments in the history of Gus Macker to you?

McNeal: “When the media showed up in my driveway was a great moment. Also, the players who have moved on in life return for our anniversary. Seeing people like Tom Crean and Melvin McLaughlin come back to their roots is also a very special feeling. Is it an exciting opportunity for you to be able to help out with CMU’s event center project?

McNeal: “It is a very big deal to be a part of it. I spent a lot of time spent in Rose Arena in my hay day. Dick Parfitt was the coach at the time and it will be great seeing him honored during the event. It’s exciting to be able to give back to the program and help out the event center. I remember seeing Larry Bird play here and watching  coaching legends like Jud Heathcoat and Dick Vitale coming to Rose Arena. Basketball had a big impact on me and it is great to contribute to something special at CMU.
You’re good friends with a lot of CMU greats. How special is this for you to come back and work with this group of people to put on a first class event?

“It has a surreal feeling to it. This is something I have always wanted to do and now the time has come. A lot of my staff has called CMU home at some point and I have been an ambassador for the Chippewas throughout the history of Gus Macker. It is tough to focus when I get caught up in thinking about it. My daughter is a student here and she might be worried about me given my enthusiasm towards CMU athletics. I am really looking forward to this event.”
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