ITEM: RICK MAJERUS met Julia Roberts today in Hollywood. "Uh, yeah, she's pretty," Majerus told reporters, "but her hair could use combing, she had a run in her stocking and her mouth is a little on the large side. She's still a year away."
Item: Rick Majerus saw the Mona Lisa on a tour of Paris this week. "It's a nice painting," he said, "but why doesn't Mona have eyebrows? Leo's got a long way to go."Item: Rick Majerus saw Field of Dreams yesterday, then reported, "It's not a bad flick, but the oldtimers were a little slow turning the double play, and their intensity level was lacking at times. They were just gutting it out."
Item: Rick Majerus took in a performance by the New York Philharmonic recently and said, "They work hard and pull for each other, but they're really not a good team yet. I don't know where this team is right now."
Item: Rick Majerus saw Cynthia Gregory dance Swan Lake in New York over the weekend. "Not a bad little toe-tapper," he said. "But Cindy could use some polishing. With some work . . . ."
Oh, to be a perfectionist. To Majerus, Baryshnikov could leap a little higher, Montana would still be a year away, Elle MacPherson could stand to lose a few, Streep could use another year in acting school . . . and his University of Utah basketball team - winner of 16 consecutive games, owner of a 19-1 record and a 12th-place spot in the national rankings - could use more work and more talent.
Since the outset of the season, Majerus has been poor-mouthing his team, and no amount of winning will change his mind. There he was last week telling the L.A. Times, "It's so unbelieveable. Anybody who thinks we're a top 20 team doesn't own a TV set."
"Silly us," wrote the Times' Gene Wojciechowski. "We thought Utah, with a 14-game winning streak, was a team worth watching come NCAA tournament time."
Thanks, but no. Majerus says he's making vacation plans for March. "If we get to .500 this season, I'll be really happy," he said early this month. Following a recent narrow win, he told reporters, "I've been telling you since Oct. 15 that we're not that good."
Say what? Has the eggplant-and-sprouts diet turned Majerus' brain to mush? Is this guy for real? One thing is certain: He has everyone guessing and wondering.
"I think it's a mental game he's playing," says center Paul Afeaki. "He wants us to think, `Let's show him.'
"Maybe deep down he really believes it," says forward Josh Grant.
One reporter recently told another reporter, in the kind of incredulous voice one reserves for, say, a UFO sighting, "Last week I think I heard Majerus say the Utes are good." No one could verify this report.
It was probably just a rumor.
As reporters filed into the Ute locker room after a road win over nationally ranked Wyoming, the team manager eagerly asked them, "Did he say we're good yet? He's got to say we're good now."
But he wouldn't.
Are you a good team yet? someone asked Majerus afterward - a question that would be absurd to any other coach of a 19-1 team, but not to this one.
"I don't know," said Majerus. "You guys say it."
Last week, in what was probably a mental lapse, Majerus slipped and said, "We have had a great season so far."
But only in the sense of overachievement.
To Majerus, the Utes are always "a year or two away," and "not a good team yet." They have "a long way to go," their wins are "nice," and they're "just gutting it out."
The strange part of it all is that Majerus really seems to believe it.
Well, he is, after all, a diagnosed perfectionist. Perfectionism is what keeps him awake until 3 a.m. watching basketball videotape. It's the reason he extends practice into overtime the day before a game. It's what drives him into fits of anger. And he thrives on it all - the work, the teaching, the preparation. For Majerus, the means is more important than the end. As soon as he has rebuilt one flawed basketball program, he moves on to another one.
Psychologist or realist? Master motivator or party-pooping pessimist? No one will ever know, but in the meantime the Utes are on the rise. They might even be, heaven forbid, a good team. Then again, perhaps Majerus, with his team of new faces, walkons, skinny bodies and underclassmen, is not far off the mark when he says the Utes "aren't there yet."
But what if the Utes keep winning and wind up with a championship? What then?
Item: With the help of the football team and a few cheerleaders, the University of Utah Runnin' Utes carried coach Rick Majerus off the court today after winning the NCAA championship. While being hauled off the court, Majerus could be heard shouting, "This is NOT a good team, I tell you! Please, someone believe me! This is all a big mistake! We're still a year away!"
If that's the case, next year will really be something.