Rick Majerus' March
At Utah, Majerus has carefully crafted a lifestyle that eliminates almost all things peripheral to coaching and winning basketball games
It's March and this is madness. Rick Majerus, the driven coach, is driving south on I-215, making a fast break through the darkness and the traffic, taking turns on two wheels. He is supposed to begin signing his newly released book at the Barnes & Noble in Sandy tonight in, oh, let's see, about 15 minutes ago.
"Maybe no one will be there," he says hopefully. "I've got to get back and watch tapes."
He searches through a pile of papers on the dashboard of his Ford Explorer, occasionally jerking the car back into his own lane while also buttoning the cuffs of his shirt. "I have the address in here somewhere," he says. The Explorer is file cabinet on radials. There are stacks of files on the floor, stacks in the back seat, stacks on the dashboard.
"Is this it?" he says, handing his navigator a sheet of paper.
He wouldn't mind signing books tonight, but what was he thinking when he scheduled it for the first week of the NCAA Tournament? Where else would his Runnin' Utes be headed this time of year, the off-season? March is when Majerus is in his full glory. There are videotapes to watch and players to coach and coaches to call and teams to beat and phone calls to return and interviews to do.
"Look at this," he had said earlier as he headed out the door of his hotel, holding up a stack of papers. "These are the messages I got from two to five. It's crazy."
The book is titled "My Life on a Napkin," which would seem to refer to his twin passions of eating and basketball (he has a habit of diagramming plays in restaurants). This is his second signing of the day. In the morning, he signed at a campus bookstore. "Five hundred people," he says, amazed. "We had to turn them away."
"I did the book for family and friends," he says. "The money goes to breast cancer. My mother had breast cancer."
Pulling off the freeway, Majerus winds his way through more traffic and makes a quick tour of the store's parking lot before settling on a spot. "I was hoping to find a police stall," he says. "I've got a police badge." He pulls out a leather case from somewhere, flipping it open to reveal a shiny silver-colored badge a gift for the charity work he has done in cooperation with law enforcement.
With some effort, Majerus pulls his massive frame from the car and lumbers across the parking lot, a hulking man in a blue Oxford shirt, jeans, loafers and no socks, with two days of graying stubble. Even if he weren't overweight 300-plus pounds he would be a large man. His forearms look like hams. As he nears the store entrance, relief washes over the faces of the employees, who are posted at the entrance, waiting anxiously.
He enters the building and makes his way past a long line of people snaking through the aisles. Some of them have been waiting 90 minutes. Some of them were turned away at this morning's signing. Majerus is a half-hour late. This could be ugly. When the people spot Majerus they
"Sorry, I'm late. I had practice," he explains.
Majerus sits at a table and gets down to business. He signs books, shakes hands and hugs and mugs with well-wishers. He poses for pictures, draping a big arm over their shoulders, and smiles. He signs books until his hand aches and he has worn out four markers. The people bring two, three, even four books at a time, at $23 a pop. A woman gushes, "You sure bring a lot of pleasure to our family, coach." There are grown men bearing basketballs and books. There are little boys and girls with shirts to sign. There are women bringing cookies.
"We're sure glad to have you here," a man tells him. "This is like waiting to meet Santa Clause," says another. A cell phone rings and a woman in line digs in her purse. "I'm next!" she tells the caller, thrilled.
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