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1998 NCAA Men's Tournament

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  Majerus Carries On

By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 1, 1998; Page C3

SAN ANTONIO, March 31 — About an hour after Utah's 78-69 loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament championship game Monday night, the Utah locker room was empty. The players were gone, a few pieces of litter on the floor and empty chairs in front of the lockers the only signs that they had been there just a few minutes earlier.

In an adjacent dressing room, Coach Rick Majerus fended off a final few questions from reporters. A few of Majerus's close friends remained, sitting back in the red lockers surrounding the room. Majerus replayed the game in his mind, thinking about what he might have done differently. Utah (30-4) led by 12 points early in the second half and by 64-60 with less than six minutes remaining. The Utes had come so excruciatingly close before fatigue set in.

Majerus, like his players, seemed exhausted, but he tried to maintain his sense of humor. When a reporter bent over to pick up a copy of the game's box score that had slipped out of Majerus's right hand, the coach said: "That's okay. I don't think I want that. It's not going to be in my scrapbook."

Indeed, perhaps the most memorable night for everyone on the Utah sideline ended in tears. Most scurried off the court quickly after the final buzzer sounded. Some players cried. Their chance to win the program's first NCAA title since 1944 had ended painfully, just a few points short. Few observers believed the Utes ever would get this far; the players who will return next season know it's a long shot for them to make it back.

Center Michael Doleac likely is headed to the NBA. Point guard Andre Miller, who was sensational throughout the Utes' tournament run, is on schedule to graduate but has another year of eligibility remaining. The NBA also is an option for him. Forward Drew Hansen, the only other fourth-year player on the team, learned after the game that he had been accepted by the University of Michigan law school.

Meanwhile, Majerus, who is courted by other colleges almost annually, had to field questions about his future. Arizona State reportedly is interested in speaking to Majerus about its coaching vacancy, though an Arizona State official today said the school had yet to contact any prospective hires.

However, Majerus said he is in no hurry to do anything. He said he is physically and emotionally spent, having worked 14 consecutive months; in stead of taking a vacation last summer, Majerus took Utah's team on a European tour and coached the U.S. 22-and-under team in the world championships in Australia.

"I haven't even thought about [other coaching possibilities]," said Majerus, his voice sounding as though it required great effort to get the words out. "I'm staying here for a few days. One of my friends is turning 50. We're going to get a cake. I'm going to work out and get some sun."

Majerus said his only plans are to attend the Kentucky Derby in May, where he expects to receive a warm welcome.

"People should be coming up and buying me stuff," said Majerus, whose team has ended its past three seasons with losses to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. "They should put me right in the box when they play 'Old Kentucky Home,' because they [beat us] every year."

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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