On Saturday, these same four men will be jumping from their seats, yelling at their players, complaining to officials, running up heart rates of more than 100.
But on Wednesday, with 72 hours to go until the NCAA's Final Four begins, it was sweetness, harmony and even jokes as the coaches of Michigan, Illinois, Duke and Seton Hall addressed the media via national telephone hookup."They have two fine 3-point shooters in Gaze and Martin," Duke's Mike Krzyzewski said of Seton Hall, then realized he'd erred. ". . . er, I mean Morton. Martin is Polish for Morton.
"Tell John I'm sorry," he said to the Pirates' coach, P.J. Carlesimo.
"That's all right. He's half Italian, " said Carlesimo, whose leading scorer, John Morton, is black.
And so it went.
Lou Henson of Illinois, who plays Michigan for the third time this season after Seton Hall and Duke play in the opener Saturday, made light of his two victories over the Wolverines this year - Michigan 96-84 at home and 87-73 on the road. He called the latter "one of the best games we played all year."
"Lou, you're being benevolent. You waxed us pretty good," replied Michigan's Steve Fisher, who retains the title "interim coach" even after winning four straight games after taking over for Bill Frieder when ther latter bolted to Arizona State.
Much of the discussion sounded like a meeting of the Coaches' Marching and Chowder Society or, if you will, a prospective meeting of the coaches' union - which some have proposed in the backwash of a season in which more than a dozen Division I coaches have been fired.
Henson bluntly said that Fisher deserves to be taken off the hook, win or lose in the Final Four, which will be played at the Kingdome in Seattle.
"I really feel Steve Fisher deserves the head coaching position," Henson said. "When he takes over and they beat the people that they've beaten by the scores they've beaten them, he's proven he's a big-time coach and is ready for the job."
Carlesimo and Krzyzewski, meanwhile, reminisced about the time more than a decade ago when they coached at Wagner and Army respectively and used to chat during writers' luncheons at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
"Yes, I've known P.J. a long time, but we didn't think about the Final Four in those days," said Krzyzewski.
In a more serious vein, Krzyzewski and Carlesimo were outspoken about the quick trigger fingers of athletic directors who seem more prone than ever to get rid of coaches who don't win immediately.
Carlesimo discussed the calls for his dismissal last year, when the Pirates probably saved his job by winning seven of their last nine Big East games and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time with a 22-13 record. And he was outspoken in his praise for the loyalty of the administration at the East Orange, N.J. school.
That loyalty was returned Wednesday when Msgr. John J. Petillo, the school's president, was asked if he felt vindicated by its decision to keep Carlesimo.
"Vindication would imply my decision was suspect," Petillo replied. "I never had any doubt about it."