Even before Thursday night's shocking 54-51 upset loss to UNLV, Utah coach Rick Majerus wasn't trying to hide his dislike for everything about the WAC tournament - from its three-games-in-three-days format to the fact that it is played in the gambling capital of the world.
"I'm not a big fan of the tournament, but we want to do the best we can," he said. "Winning and losing becomes a habit, so you want to win."Majerus also feels his team is deserving of a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament despite Thursday's loss.
NO PLACE FOR UTES: The Utah team stayed at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas after staying in the Riviera last year. Majerus would just as soon his team stayed at the the quiet Crown Plaza Hotel off the strip, as it did in January, or at the Marriott Suites. However, because this is the WAC tournament, the Utes went where told.
"Don't get me started on that tournament," said Majerus. "I don't like taking kids into casinos, I don't like taking kids into smoke-filled rooms, I don't like the proximity to gambling. I think it's the biggest betting handle in American sports. All of a sudden we're down there and a viable player in the (NCAA) tournament (the following week) and the kids don't know who they're talking to. I think it's tough to put those kids in that situation."
"Believe me, I'm not a pollyanna, I've spent a lot of nights in Las Vegas - I'm the king of Las Vegas," added Majerus. "But if we really cared about the kids we wouldn't do those types of things."
GOING IN STYLE: In recent years nearly every NBA team has gone to charter jets to transport players and coaches from city to city without the hassle of airports and commercial flights. It took the Utah Jazz until just a couple of years ago to make the switch to charters.
Colleges rarely use charters, but the Utah basketball team has the closest thing to it, courtesy of industrialist Jon Huntsman.
The Ute basketball team has used Huntsman's private jet off and on for years and obviously it's legal within NCAA rules or they would have stopped a long time ago. Ute coach Rick Majerus is good friends with Huntsman and is able to get use of a Huntsman plane when needed.
The Utes needed one last week when, in the midst of a four-games-in-eight-days stretch, they had to go to El Paso for a midweek game.
They flew out of Salt Lake Tuesday night, the night before the airport was closed but the same night many flights were canceled because of the snow, including two Delta flights to El Paso. After the Thursday night game, the Utes were able to fly directly out of El Paso and get home by midnight for a decent night's sleep rather than getting up to catch a 7 a.m. flight Friday.
"If Jon Huntsman doesn't get us that plane, we would have been punch-drunk sailors this week," said Majerus.