Michael McGuire got off of work at the coal mine and rushed to Rupp Arena at the University of Kentucky. He was covered in dirt from work, having not had time to shower after his shift, but he had something important to do: watch a basketball game with his son.
As McGuire and his son enjoyed the game together, a fan snapped a photo – and it quickly went viral. It even made it to University of Kentucky Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari, who was moved by the image.
Calipari said at a press conference on Tuesday that when he was sent the photo, it hit him “right between the eyes.” The coach tweeted the photo and shared why it made such an impact on him: “My family’s American dream started in a Clarksburg, WV coal mine, so this picture hits home,” he wrote.
He said he wanted to give the family VIP tickets and after asking around, he was able to get in contact with McGuire’s wife, Mollie.
Mollie told Calipari her husband was humble and hard working. “This is hard work, but he makes enough being there that I don’t have to work. And he’s a great father. He’s done this many times,” Mollie said, according to Calipari.
When Calipari got on the phone with McGuire, the dad told the coach that when he was called into the office at work, he thought he had done something wrong. But when he walked in, everyone was cheering for him.
Calipari said McGuire wanted to be at the game so badly, “he was willing to leave without showering, without changing, just get in his car and go because he got out of the mine late.”
“It wasn’t about that. It was that he wanted to be there with his son. That’s why he did it,” the coach said.
Calipari said since the photo went viral, hotels have been calling, offering rooms. Restaurants are calling, offering dinners. Even a car dealership offered McGuire a car.
“Isn’t it neat for someone like that, who is a quiet, humble guy, to know people appreciate you, and we appreciate what you stand for?” Calipari said. “And I appreciate it because it’s how my family got their start in this country. The American dream started in a coal mine in Clarksburg, West Virginia.”
The coach said within five minutes of first seeing the photo, he decided “this one here, I’m taking care of this guy and his family.”