No one relishes home court advantage in the playoffs like a team's most ardent and visible fan. In Los Angeles it's the beshaded Jack Nicholson; in Miami, the highly vocal Jimmy Buffet; in New York, of course, the Reggie-baiting Spike Lee. None of these celebrities, however, can match the fervor of Bill Beise, the Timber-wolves' natty, nutty courtside talisman, who is known in Minnesota simply as Coach.
Look for Beise (pronounced BUY-see) in his usual seat, across from the visiting team's bench. Or, to be exact, look for him in front of his usual seat because that's where he perpetually crouches, shouting encouragement, questioning calls and banging a rolled-up Hoop magazine on the floor. Unfailingly dressed in a suit, he looks for all the world like a crazed college coach—think Rick Pitino on uppers. Beise's popularity in the Twin Cities is such that the T-Wolves ordered 5,000 bobbleheads in his likeness for last year's final home game.
In his day job Beise is a 49-year-old stockbroker who never played organized basketball or coached any sport (though he was a catcher in grade school, which may help explain why he can squat for entire quarters). He's had Timberwolves season tickets since the team began play, in 1989-90, though his seats were in the second deck at the Metrodome that season. "I lasted all of one quarter up there, and that was it," he recalls. "From then on I bought scalped tickets to every game to get close to the court." When the team moved to the Target Center the next year, he got his current court-side seat. "That first game, I didn't even know I was squatting," Beise says. "It certainly wasn't a conscious decision. There must have been some passion deep inside of me that was just waiting to come out."
If Minnesota finally advances past the first round, expect to see Beise slapping five with Latrell Sprewell or chest-bumping Kevin Garnett—no matter where the series ends. He plans to fly to every Timberwolves road playoff game ("I hope I have to spend 50 grand on airline tickets!" he nearly shouts) and is positively giddy about their title chances. "I can't even look at the standings without my palms getting sweaty," he says. "I am so ready!"