The TV cameras were rolling, the pens scribbling, the tape recorders whirring. Ute coach Rick Majerus was on the rostrum, keeping every one of them busy. Someone asked Majerus to compare his "coaching style and personality" to Arizona coach Lute Olson's.
"I don't know about personality," said Majerus. "But you know, I don't have a lot of combs."There were belly laughs all around. The funny man was back in business, a super-size guy holding court in a super-size world. Once the NCAA Tournament comes around, if you have a question, Majerus has a wind-aided answer.
"I'm very pleased for Andre Miller to be able to return to L.A.," Majerus said at the beginning of the interview period. "He's from Verbum Dei High School. I think Hanno (Mottola), coming from Finland, has gotta be ecstatic, as well. Maybe not. Maybe he'd be more ecstatic if he were in the Finland nationals."
More laughter. More yuks. More Rick.
Majerus has always been a media favorite, but these day's he's bigger than ever. He's talking restaurants. He's talking academics. He's even talking about his dream job, coaching at St. Mary's. Although none of those subjects are new to Utahns, they are to the national media, which have only recently started to take note on a regular basis.
Like spring and the seams on his loose-fit Dockers, Majerus is busting out all over. He's on ESPN, in Sports Illustrated, covering the news like he covers a lawn chair - enough and then some. He has the Utes among the final eight teams in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year, making him one of the country's most sought-after interviews.
"If you said Majerus is rapidly climbing a ladder that has coaches such as Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Lute Olson at the top, you wouldn't get an argument from anyone who follows college basketball," wrote Randy Harvey in the Los Angeles Times.
A Times headline stated, "Majerus the constant in a winning formula." An Orange County Register writer rated him among the greatest active coaches. A Register headline added, "Majerus Unfashionable Winner." And USA Today weighed in withthis headline: "Utes' success sits squarely on shoulders of Majerus."
March Madness has given way to Majerus Madness.
"He's good to the media. He's a figure everyone wants to talk to. He gives them things to write about and run on the TV stations," said Utah media relations director Bruce Woodbury.
In terms of information - basketball and otherwise - Majerus is a one-man Zip Drive. After handling questions at a press conference last Wednesday, he stayed 20 more minutes in a hallway with a handful of other reporters.
"Aren't I supposed to be in practice?" he said. Maybe not. He handled the mandatory interview session following Thursday's game, then later swung by the media room - hot dog in hand - for another round of TV interviews.
Majerus, of course, has always had an Al Bundy sort of appeal. In a profession filled with button-down yuppies, he cuts an intriguing figure in his pullover sweater and unmatched slacks. He has been known to show up for television interviews in fleece practice shorts. Friday he arrived for his interview session in a dingy, misshapen Reebok T-shirt. Some say he will never coach in the NBA - a prospect he calls "intriguing" - because a jacket is mandatory.
He burps and picks at the food between his teeth. Other coaches have covertly taken to calling him "Chubby Lunch." In a business populated by those in dire need of a personality transplant, Majerus is a breath of fresh - make that sweaty - air. He's big, bodacious and successful.
Clearly, part of his appeal is that, like most people, he's a slave to his vices. He's proud to admit he's never met a Super Supreme of anything he didn't like. He lives in a hotel because he doesn't want to make his bed. "I'm a cave dweller from way back," he said.
Consequently, Majerus is the most-quoted, most sought-after coach in this year's tournament. While Olson owns the yuppies, and Rhode Island's Jim Harrick owns the dreamers, Majerus owns the fork-lift operators.
"His appeal is that he's one of us," said ESPN's Shelly Smith. "You feel like he's your neighbor."
Albeit one who is still working at 2 a.m.
And so as the Utes make their bid for the Final Four today, one thing is certain: Whatever happens, Majerus has stuck in the nation's consciousness. He's there in living color, proving to all the world that winning big and living large can indeed go hand in hand.