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NCAA TOURNAMENT / CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Fat Jokes About Utah Coach Majerus Aren't Funny to Everyone

March 31, 1998|From Times Wire Services

SAN ANTONIO — After Utah and its 300 plus-pound Coach Rick Majerus made the NCAA tournament title game, the Runnin' Utes fans rolled out the red carpet and the media rolled out the fat jokes.

This year's NCAA men's basketball championship features a matchup of tubby versus Tubby, Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith who got his nickname because he liked to spend a lot of time in the bathtub as a boy. Will Majerus, who said he's never met a buffet he didn't like, use pepperoni slices to diagram plays Monday night against Kentucky?

Majerus--who underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 1990 and was asked to diet and exercise--goes along with the gags.

"My health is pretty good," said the 50-year-old Majerus. "I do exercise. All you got to do is look at me and know I'm not sticking to my diet."

Not everyone is laughing about Majerus's waistline, including former North Carolina coach Dean Smith.

"I've worried about it for some time," said Smith, who is a studio analyst for CBS during the tournament. "He's a special, special person, and I'm hoping he's doing everything to make sure to keep his health intact. It worries me if he isn't."

Majerus's physician said the coach is in "good health," and the coach is exercising daily, according to Utah's sports information director, Bruce Woodbury. Majerus, though, said he's not sticking to a prescribed diet that prohibits greasy and fatty foods. His weight is the same or has increased since his bypass surgery.

That's sending the wrong message to his players, said University of Kentucky team physician David Caborn.

"I have a real problem with it," Caborn said. "It's like when I see a cardiologist who smokes like a chimney and then tells his patients to maintain good health. He's asking his players to be in top condition and he isn't doing it himself."

Caborn said Tubby Smith--whose weight is normal--is examined frequently, runs daily and exercises at least three times a week. Unlike the Kentucky coach, though, Majerus isn't under the care of the Utah team physician. He has his own doctor.

"If he were over here, I'd make sure he was exercising and dieting," Caborn said. "That's my responsibility.

Majerus is one of the most gregarious and humorous coaches in college basketball. Almost every interview or conversation that Majerus conducts features one-liners that usually include references to his weight or affinity for greasy and fatty foods.

Caborn said Majerus is like many patients he sees.

"There's a perception that there's this heavy, jolly, guy who's always joking around about his weight," Caborn said. "But it can become unhealthy."

Smith is hoping Majerus is taking care of himself.

"He went through the operation and he knows how lucky he is," Smith said. "But it's his life. We all care about him a great deal."

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