Image Source: theguru.com
With the passing of Rick Majerus yesterday, college basketball lost one of its great personalities, not to mention great coaches.
In the late ‘90’s I was flying to Houston on Southwest Airlines, which meant the usual self-selection of seats. There was a window seat available, but it meant negotiating my way past a fairly large man on the aisle. Nevertheless, it looked like the best available option. When I was close enough to ask the gentleman if he could get up so I could get by, I realized who it was – Rick Majerus, then the coach of the University of Utah during their glory years.
I settled into my seat on the window and began reading the sports section of USA Today. As I began to put the paper away Majerus said: “If you’re finished with that, can I take a look?” Sensing an opportunity to acknowledge that I knew who he was, I said: “Sure. Are you mentioned in it?” “No,” he replied. “We play tonight.”
I looked around for some very tall people on the plane but didn’t see any. So I asked him where his team was. They were already in Houston and he had taken a quick side trip to Oklahoma to scout a promising player before he rejoined the team. It was Monday morning and Utah was playing that night against Rice. We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then I wished him good luck in the game. “Would you like some tickets?” he asked. The tone indicated to me that he was serious. I responded politely that I wasn’t sure that I would be able to free up to go. He asked if, assuming I could make it, would I need two tickets or four. I reiterated that I did not want him to extend himself for something that I may not be attend. “I’ll leave you four,” he said. And that’s exactly what he did.
RIP, Coach. And thanks for the tickets.