Root for Rick Majerus. Root for Utah. Root for the 300-pound bag
of cholesterol in the wrinkled sweater and the crinkled dome. Go
ahead. Give into Starch Madness.
Do not root for North Carolina. Rooting for North Carolina is
like rooting for Exxon. North Carolina wins, its fans rise as
one out of their Barcaloungers, yawn once and turn in.
If Majerus wins the NCAA tournament, he might just explode like
an overripe tomato. He has never been to the Final Four as a
head coach until now, despite having devoted his life to getting
there. He has lived on the seventh floor of a hotel in Salt Lake
City just so he could think about nothing but getting there. The
50-year-old Majerus is what all men would be if their wives
would just let them: He doesn't do the dishes, doesn't mow the
lawn and rarely worries about using the "special" towels. He has
pretty much cornered Guy Heaven: He gets room service, has his
secretary buy his shirts and lives hoop. Period.
Root for Majerus because he loves basketball as much as you do.
Wherever he is in the world, he's looking for a pickup game.
He'll play with complete strangers, makes no difference. "All I
do is pick, pass and box out," he says. "You play me, I
guarantee you won't get a rebound." The only lousy part about
Utah's making it to San Antonio is it means he won't get to play
in his usual game at the Final Four with his buddies, including
Kevin Costner. "He always puts me on his team," says Majerus.
"Wouldn't you want somebody who just picks, passes and boxes
out?" Afterward, of course, there's a buffet.
Do not root for Kentucky. Rooting for Kentucky to win another
championship is like rooting for Tyra Banks to have
breast-augmentation surgery. Besides, how can you root for a
team with a counterfeit Tubby? Kentucky coach Tubby Smith is no
more a Tubby than Majerus is a Stretch. Majerus has earned his
tubbyness. He is a two-fisted, sleeves-up, facedown eater. If
you were to drop Majerus out of the sky and into downtown
Djibouti, he'd know a good little wings joint down the street.
Root for a guy who isn't one of the pretty people. One day in
Cincinnati, Majerus was walking through a lobby when he heard a
guy say about him, "That's somebody. Who is it? He's famous."
Another guy said, "I know who it is! It's one of the Stooges!"
Majerus fights his weight every day. His father, Raymond, died
of a heart attack at 61. Rick started having chest pains at 41
and had to have a septuple bypass. Now he works out daily, but
the weight won't stay off, possibly because he can't bring
himself to do the one exercise that would help the most--the
Do not root for Stanford. Stanford kids need no more breaks in
life. Stanford is a lot of handsome 84-inch geniuses who will
all be playing for the Brookings Institution soon enough.
Stanford is coached by a slim, handsome man, Mike Montgomery,
who would look debonair in a tarp for a 1979 Gran Torino.
Majerus always looks a little like a man shoplifting pillows. He
was offered a reported $40 million last year to coach the Golden
State Warriors--if Sprewell had choked Majerus, he would have
gotten a projectile rigatoni right in the kisser--but said no,
possibly because he does not own a suit. The day Majerus joins
the NBA, Giorgio Armani weeps.
Root for Majerus, a guy who knows more about basketball than the
Springfield YMCA. Root for the hoops savant who went to the West
Regional in Anaheim last week and whipped defending champ
Arizona by three city blocks with a musty triangle-and-two
defense. Root for the guy with the volleyball haircut--six on a
side--who outcoached Lute Olson and his pocketful of combs.
Root for the son of a toiletmaker. Root for a man who usually
flies, buses and eats apart from his team so that his players
learn to be men and not wards. Root for him because he's been
loyal. Root for him because a championship will mean more to him
than to anybody else in the Alamodome. But mostly, root for Rick
Majerus and Utah because if they win, it will be the first time
in NCAA history that a coach and his players celebrate madly in
the locker room by squirting one another with barbecue sauce.
B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Rick Reilly]
"If you were to drop Majerus into downtown Djibouti, he'd know a
good little wings joint down the street."