By now, everyone has seen the video of the crazy coach from Rutgers zinging basketballs at his players’ heads, administering forearm shivers and shoves to their torsos and delivering precisely calibrated kicks to their buttocks. Besides the physical abuse, there is a variety of verbal abuse, most of which is bleeped out. The hapless players are routinely, and at great length, castigated as [insert your favorite F-word, C-word or D-word here], among other colorful epithets.
Only after the video went viral and outrage became universal was the coach, Mike Rice, fired; then the mealy mouthed athletic director was fired, and, if justice is done, the pass-the-buck president of the university, who recently gave a goofy “Hey, don’t blame me” press conference, will be given the galosh.
Had there been no video of the deranged coach using his defenseless players as target practice, he would still be hopping around the gymnasium like an unhinged raver hammered out of his skull. It no doubt comes as a bit of a surprise that basketball practices are even recorded in the first place; and no doubt at this very moment, athletic department functionaries in universities in every corner of America are working around the clock to deep-six incriminating videos of their very own crazy coaches doing lord knows what to their hapless athletes.
As you know, an investigation into Utah’s own crazy coach is presently under way. In the University of Utah’s case, the crazy coach in question is the swimming coach, who punished his charges by making them swim underwater with bags on their heads and/or pipes attached to their bodies. One swimmer almost drowned, but, hey, if you can’t stand the water, get out of the pool.
The folks in the athletic department are either breathing a big sigh of relief about lack of incriminating video or frantically scouring their files for waterlogged home movies of their swimming coach’s creative use of water torture.
To get some instructive perspective on this whole business of crazy coaches, the Deep End got in touch with Utah’s legendary and late basketball coach, the one and only Rick Majerus. Given his deceased status, I thought it might take a while to track him down, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that his cell phone was still working.
Deep End: Coach, condolences on your passing. How are things these days?
Coach Majerus: D.P., good to hear from you. This place is not at all bad. Not as good as up at the Marriott, but still pretty damned good. All the pizza you can eat, all the time, and I haven’t gained a pound.
D.E.: Tell me, Coach, what’s your take on the crazy coach from Rutgers?
C.M.: I’ll just say this: I’m freaking glad we didn’t have video in my days at the U.
D.E.: What do you think would have happened if a disgruntled assistant squealed to the athletic director about your language or your penis puppetry? And had video evidence of your motivational techniques?
C.M.: Well, as you know, I got in some trouble with that deaf-and-dumb kid, but I was able to plead obesity and retire to a fat farm. Here’s the thing, though: As long as you win, you can do what you freaking please. They loved me at the U. And what you so elegantly call my penis puppetry was in actuality penis pedagogy. You want me to carry around a ruler or a measuring stick to show players how close to guard their opponents? More convenient to use my own flexible measuring device.
D.E.: How would you assess the esteem granted to the coaching profession as a whole?
C.M.: Never figured out why all these powerful university and community figures fawned all over me. Me and some of the other coaches in the Coaches Corner of the Celestial Kingdom—imagine my surprise when it turned out the Mormons were right about heaven—us coaches like to compare notes. Woody Hayes is still crazy as ever, as is Bo Schem-something-or-other from Michigan, and they are punching each other out night and day, which is to say, for time and eternity. Me, I’m just content to eat pizza and tell jokes and keep the cherubim in stitches.
D.E.: Thanks for your insights, Coach.
C.M.: You’re welcome, and remember what Knute Rockne always says.
D.E.: Win one for the Gipper?
C.M.: No. De mortuis nil nisi bonum. Speak no ill of the dead.
D.P. Sorensen writes a satire column for City Weekly.