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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Majerus' Day Was a Cut Above Most He Has Had

April 24, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

He can laugh now, Utah basketball Coach Rick Majerus said, because he didn't bleed to death early Friday morning after an accident at LAX.

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"IT'S EMBARRASSING," Majerus said. "I'd like to say I rented a convertible, it was sunset and I was driving down Highway 1 with my arm around a babe when I strayed into the valley of death.

"But to tell the truth, I was in a damn rental car van that was going too fast, and I was standing up because there were no more seats. The van hit something coming out of LAX and threw me into the door-well. I'm lucky the door didn't pop open or I would have been dead."

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IT WAS 11:30 P.M. Thursday evening when Majerus' L.A. odyssey began. He was here on a recruiting trip, but he suffered a severe cut to his lower leg when he fell, and separated his shoulder. The rental van driver didn't stop.

When Majerus reached the rental car agency, he went inside and told the woman on duty he was seriously hurt.

"I got worried when the blood just started rushing out," he said. "The lady behind the desk put me in a car and took me to this clinic on Century Boulevard that looked like it was a guarded abortion house with an office on the second floor. It was really something.

"I tried applying my own tourniquet, but I couldn't stop the bleeding. When the guy inside saw my leg he said the injury was too severe for him to treat me. The blood was just gushing from my leg--I begged him to stop it, but he wanted insurance forms to do that."

The young woman, who didn't speak much English and wouldn't know the difference between a basketball coach and a sumo wrestler, put Majerus back into the car and set out looking for the Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital.

"She's lost, she doesn't want to turn down a one-way street, I'm bleeding to death and I'm yelling--just go," Majerus said. "She was a nice young girl, but I'm in pain and she's worried about blood on the car carpet."

In the emergency room, Majerus was one of nine patients waiting for the one doctor on duty. A young medical technician, however, offered help.

"She tells me it is her second day on the job and I'm thinking, great, I am going to die," Majerus said. "She weighs about 110 pounds, and she's putting compression on my leg and she's worried she's hurting me.

"The doctor was great, although he called me, 'Ricky,'--my real name. I got 27 stitches--inside and outside on my calf. He says it must be my lucky day because I hadn't cut a tendon or an artery. Some lucky day."

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IT HAS BEEN some kind of lucky year for Majerus, who underwent knee surgery, took a leave of absence from his coaching duties to recover, suffered chest pains and underwent heart bypass surgery. During heart surgery one of the surgeons left a small puncture in his aorta, which resulted in internal bleeding and an extended hospital stay.

His mentor, Al McGuire and his mother were ill about the same time in Milwaukee, so while still on the mend he attended to their needs. A short time later he lost McGuire, and then suffered an attack of diverticulosis, requiring another hospital stay.

"Talk about bad breaks," Majerus said, "All my friends think I'm a bad driver, and when they hear about this accident, they're gonna think I got hurt because I was driving."

To be accurate, his friends say he's a horrible driver. One story has him going 100 mph down a desert highway, and a friend in the back seat pleading for his life. "Don't worry," Majerus tells him, "I'll be your air bag."

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MAJERUS LEFT about 3:30 after being patched up--his ordeal not yet done.

"A friend picked me up, takes me to this hotel at 3:30 in the morning, and I'm asking for a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call and a king-size bed, and the clerk is looking at us like we're two gay guys looking for a quickie."

An hour later he called a cab to catch a 6:30 a.m. flight home.

"I'm still dressed in the shorts and T-shirt I arrived in, I haven't showered, I have blood on me and the guy won't let me get into his cab."

A short time after boarding a flight to Salt Lake City, a flight attendant asked him if he knew he was bleeding.

"It's dripping down into my shoe, and I can see the stewardess is looking at me like I had just come from a gang fight or something. I pleaded--just let me get home to Salt Lake."

He's home now with orders to remain off his feet while he heals, which I would imagine has to be considered good news for drivers everywhere.

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I CAN'T IMAGINE how I missed it, or for that matter how I've missed it every time it has been on, but I'm told on "The Keith Olbermann Evening News," Olbermann reported the Dodgers might be for sale. Next week, I presume, he will report they might not be for sale. Either way--he's on top of the story.

He also reported that the current ownership of the Dodgers has had discussions with the Wasserman family about buying the team, although the Wasserman family said there have been no such discussions.

The Fox people put out a statement saying they've had no conversations regarding the sale of the Dodgers. The Fox people also employ Olbermann, so they may or may not be telling the truth. Either way they're covered.

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TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Chris:

"I actually like reading your column and look forward to it every morning, So what does that make me?"

Certainly not a member of my family.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com

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