Majerus: What do you want for Sabrina?
Van Horn: A stroller that she can't escape from.
Majerus sized up those substantial desires, took a deep breath and told Van Horn about the Al McGuire Refrigerator Theory. The theory goes that the less one has in the fridge, the more avidly one ought to seek wealth. "I can look in my refrigerator and I've got the hors d'oeuvres section, the Ben & Jerry's section, every section you can think of," Majerus told Van Horn. "I look in your refrigerator and you're lucky if you've got a quart of milk."
Van Horn's roommate, Greg Riolo, supplied the advice of the common man. "I'd leave in a heartbeat if millions of dollars were staring me in the face," Riolo said.
But even though two of his closest confidants were urging Van Horn to take the money, his mind kept rewinding to something he had said on the frigid morning of Jan. 25, 1994. Shortly before 2 a.m. on that day, Majerus received a call from Keith's mother, May. She told him that Van Horn's 57-year-old father, Ken, had died the previous evening of heart failure, and she asked Majerus to deliver the news and stay with Keith for as long as her son wished. Majerus, who had performed the same dismal service for no fewer than five other players during his coaching career, woke up Van Horn in his dorm room and drove him to a 24-hour diner, where they talked until dawn. Majerus had lost his own father three years earlier, so the two reminisced about their dads.
As they spoke, Majerus couldn't help but notice how Ken's son sat before him, composed in the face of tragedy. Van Horn talked about the day he had destroyed the transmission on his father's boat and how Ken, who owned a fire sprinkler business, had handled the news with his customary calm. In that way father and son were similar: inclined to see all sides of an issue and reluctant to react strongly until they were sure of how they felt. Then Van Horn told Majerus about the promise he had made to his father before he left home for Utah. He had told his dad that he would graduate from college.
Actually, there was a time when Keith Van Horn announced his intention to go pro. After a particularly successful afternoon of shooting at the family's backyard rim, Keith strode up to his mother and said, "I've decided to play in the NBA." He was eight years old. May took her son at his word, especially after he grew from a guard into a power forward, sprouting six inches between the ninth and 10th grades at Diamond Bar High in suburban Los Angeles.
Van Horn stood out on the L.A. playground scene, not only because he could dominate games both inside and outside, but also because his fair skin and sandy bangs made him look as if he had escaped from an episode of The Waltons. "I once played ball in a league at Fremont High in South Central," Van Horn says. "There were eight teams in that league, and at every game the only other white people in the gym were the college recruiters."
Utah assistant coach Donny Daniels remembers scouting Van Horn during a pickup game at Ronald Reagan Park in Diamond Bar. "Keith was humiliating the competition, draining 20-footers from all over the court," Daniels recalls. "I was sitting on a park bench with some of the locals, and all they kept saying was, 'Damn, that white boy can play.' " Daniels was so smitten with Van Horn that he once attended a Diamond Bar game even though he knew Van Horn had a sprained wrist and wouldn't suit up. Daniels went to watch him watch.
Because he liked Majerus and thought he would get considerable playing time as a freshman, Van Horn chose Utah over Cal and Arizona State. Since coming to Salt Lake City, his reputation has grown with his muscles. "He showed up here at 190 pounds and thin as a thermometer, so at the beginning, the way guys moved past him, it was like opening Boulder Dam," Majerus says. "But he's a self-made player, and he worked hard in the weight room so that nobody could push him around."