Andrew Bogut and Mark Jackson went over to The Muss and thanked the rowdy students for their support after the University of Utah beat San Diego State 70-60 on Saturday afternoon.
They were treated like stars. They acted like winning actors at the Academy Awards.
"It was great to see how Utah fans appreciate me as a player," Bogut said. "I just thanked them."
He was hardly the only one in a grateful mood Saturday. The Utes gave out more thanks than turnovers which was a lot in this sloppy game.
The administration and fans thanked Bogut and Jackson for playing here. Coach Ray Giacoletti thanked Bogut for returning for his sophomore season. Jackson thanked the fans and his coach for giving him a phone call to come back after he took over for departed Rick Majerus.
And along with fans, athletic director Chris Hill told Bogut's father in town to see his son play as a Ute for the first time in person that he was owed a debt of gratitude as well.
"Thank you for letting us have your son," Hill said to Michael Bogut, who made the long flight from Down Under on Thursday. "It's been fun."
In Australian, Bogut returned the thanks to Hill and Utahns in general.
Bogut (the father) has had so much fun he hopes Bogut (the son) stays in Utah as a Ute or, probably better yet, as a member of the Utah Jazz. Of course, because of his big-time NBA stock right now, he might have a better shot wearing a red and white uniform in Salt Lake City than one of Larry H. Miller's unless the Jazz start losing a lot more or get lucky in the lottery. There's speculation Bogut, ESPN's national player of the year, will be snatched up first in the draft.
"I would love to shift here," Bogut's dad said, adding that if his son gets drafted by the Jazz several of his family members in Australia and Croatia would move to Utah. "I feel like I'm home."
He also feels like it's not his right to tell his boy what decision to make.
"I don't tell Andrew what to do," he said. "We follow his dream instead of making his dreams."
Though Bogut notched his nation-best 20th double-double with 20 points and 15 rebounds, his dad's favorite play came when the center made one of his four assists.
Sitting near the court, dad saw son give Justin Hawkins "the eye" and then the ball after the forward made a cut, resulting in a crowd-pleasing layup to help put the game away.
He also enjoyed a 3-pointer his son hit with less than two minutes left, which sparked a "One more year!" chant from the crowd. He said he couldn't believe how loud Ute fans were something he didn't quite expect after following games on ESPN Australia or on the Internet Down Under.
"That was unbelievable," Michael Bogut said of the entire experience.
Along with "surreal" and "awesome," unbelievable was one of the words Jackson used to describe his senior season in which the 15th-ranked Utes went 25-4, undefeated at home and an MWC record 13-1 in league play. He scored 10 points and dished out seven assists in his last home hurrah.
"It couldn't have been a better season," said the senior, who didn't play his junior year because of Majerus. "I couldn't have scripted a better ending."
Michael Bogut just hopes the real ending isn't too soon. He's staying in America as long as the Utes are still playing in the NCAA tournament.
"Let's hope," he said, "we're here until the end."
E-mail: [email protected]