The following are notes from "My Life in a Napkin" by Rick Majerus:
“You don’t really understand his influence and impact until after you’ve left the program.” -Keith Van Horn (on Majerus)
You have to think you’re a good coach or you won’t succeed. You have to have an ego.
“The most expensive thing is cheap labor.” -Al McGuire
I had to worm my way in and make myself indispensable.
You tell me the day I’m not the most organized, enthusiastic, energetic guy on the floor. If I’m not that guy, then that will be the day we end practice early and the next day I’ll retire.
He (McGuire) said something that always stuck with me: “The best thing to happen to me is that it allowed me to be called ‘Coach.’ That something nonnegotiable. It makes me feel so good.
“That was the first thing that you noticed about him, how enthusiastic he was, how excited he was when he learned something new, how respectful he was.” -Don Nelson on Majerus
“You know what the five most important minutes of a game are? It’s the five minutes in the press conference after the game.” -Don Nelson
I used to tell my assistants the same thing I told myself: schedule nothing. Keep twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week open.
But here’s what I told parents then, and here’s what I tell them now: “I’m going to care more about your son’s education than you will.” And I mean it. I’ve called in guys with 2.7 GPAs and 3.1 GPAs. I’m serious about it. I think academics and conduct are the two most important things in a program.
I tell recruits and their parents three things: the most important thing is education. I’ll say, “Here’s the number of every parent of every player on my team. Call one, call them all. If you talk to one parent and they say their son’s education has not been the most important consideration of his career with me, then you shouldn’t come to Utah, because I’ve lied to you.
Sometimes I’ll hear coaches say that a kid signs with a school, not a coach. To me, that’s a pure cop-out. The coach determines the program. The coach selects the players.
Second, I’ll talk to recruits about basketball — my commitment to them, and their commitment to me.
And then I talk to them about the social aspect of Utah.
That’s why evaluation is so important. When I’m look at a player, I look for guys who love to play.
I look at guys who have a feel for the game, a sense of the game. That’s very hard to find.
I’ll look at guys who teams win. I look for improvement, for physical maturation. If a guy is really well coached, then sometimes he’ll have a talent ceiling. You’ve got to spend a lot of time looking at their best games, but also their worst games, to see how they react to adversity.
I always ask certain questions. I ask them what they shoot from the foul line. If they start the sentence with about, then they’re probably a poor shooter, and second, they might not be committed to foul shooting and it’s importance.
I’ll ask them whose game reminds them of their own. That’s a big NBA question to college kids.
The most important thing I do is go to a kid’s school. As I walk around the school, I’ll stop a student and ask where the coach’s office is located. Then I’ll ask the student about the kid I’m recruiting. I’ll ask if he’s a nice guy, that sort of thing. Those students usually tell you the truth about a kid. And those answers are as important to me as anything else I do.
I pick up on little things. I watch how a kid responds to his parents. I watch how a kid deals with his high school coach. I watch how they are during timeouts. I try to get to practice early and watch them. I don’t like guys looking over at me when I’m watching them...I don’t want them to be more worried about me than basketball.
If someone asked me for recruiting advice, I’d tell them they have to know their market and know their school. You don’t want to waste time. The worst thing you can do in recruiting is come in second. You’ve got to know when to cut your losses.
You have to determine how a player will fit into your system. The most pivotal spot is point guard. The next spot is the four spot, the power forward. That’s the spot I pay the most attention to because I like to play the middle less congested. I want my four-man to be able to go on the floor, shoot, and stretch the defense.
I don’t know if I’m a good recruiter. I know I’m a hard worker. I’m diligent. I spend a lot of time on the road. I’m a good evaluator. But your proficiency comes through repetition. I always say, “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.”
Shaq was a really nice guy. To be so young and have so much money, and yet handle himself so well. That’s tough to do.
Wyoming beat us by six in a game we let get away from us. First, we didn’t play tough or hard, and we weren’t ready to play...We flew to Colorado State and the staff and I watched the tape of the Wyoming game until 4:00 AM, and then again from seven o’clock to ten. The players watched it from ten to three.
I don’t have any problems going outside my own staff for expertise or help. Ideas are ideas. It doesn’t matter if they come from a local high school coach or someone from an NAIA program. I don’t look at the source of the idea, I look at the merit of it.
We bring a lot of equipment on the road: six VCRs, a projection camera, a tool box, laser pointers, markers, wires.
With rare exceptions, I still enjoy recruiting. I love the mental gymnastics required to evaluate players. I’ll go anywhere to recruit a kid: China, Australia, Amsterdam, Finland, Germany, Stockholm, or Fairbury, Nebraska. It doesn’t matter. I’m like the Wide World of sports. I’m always spanning the globe.
Recruiting is hard work. When you first get in the business, you’re willing to go anywhere, anytime, for any kid. You’re fearless. I think I’ve maintained that. But I don’t have a family, and I enjoy traveling.
I went out every day. I didn’t miss a day. You can’t afford to miss days in this business.
I’m always honest with recruits. I always insist that they come to watch a practice. I tell them, “If this isn’t the most intense, organized, disciplined, purposeful practice you’ll see, then I’ve lied to you and don’t come to Utah. I’m not saying we have all the answers, but we have a direction we’re going to go every day.