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When the Game Stops. . .

Billy 'The Hill' McGill Took Utah to Great Heights in 1961, but His Fortunes Plummeted and Lack of a Degree Is to Blame

March 28, 1998|BILL PLASCHKE

For 23 years, his luck held out. But for 23 years, without the degree, he was rarely promoted or given a raise.

In 1995, when he was laid off, he was not doing much better than when he had started.

Today, with his unemployment gone, he is doing considerably worse.

Every day, he runs to a nearby store to fax off resumes. Every day, nothing.

"If you had told me when I got laid off that I would not get another job, I would never believe it," he said. "You can imagine how many people I know. I just don't understand . . . "

He once called one of those people, an NBA general manager who actually offered him a job.

As a janitor.

"I was all set to take it," McGill said.

But the general manager inexplicably withdrew the offer.

McGill once took a job selling brushes door to door. With his still-unrepaired knee, he lasted one day.

Then there was the time he got all dressed up and visited a mysterious prospective employer, only to learn they wanted him to go door to door selling cemetery plots.

"I've applied everywhere," McGill said. "The classifieds never tell you what the company does, so I send off stuff to everyone.

"What job won't I take? That's a good question."

When Hill returned to Utah this year to participate in ceremonies honoring Van Horn, Majerus took him aside.

"If you had played for me, I would not have let this happen to you," Majerus told him. "You would have graduated."

McGill would like a job with the NBA, but it seems the only time the league calls him is to give a speech to rookies about finishing their education.

"They have successful millionaires talk to them . . . then they have me," he said.

He also would like a job passing along his basketball knowledge to younger players--a place like Utah would be perfect--but the Utes' athletic director sighed again.

"With all the NCAA rules, you can't really involve yourself much with boosters or former players unless you hire them," Hill said.

So why not hire one of your legends, a man whose name appears throughout your record book, someone to pass along stories of greatness, Billy "The Hill" McGill?

Oh, of course.

He needs a degree.

"You said it, we didn't," Hill said. "It's a real tragedy."

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