Your own medical misadventure has put you and death on terms even more intimate than before. Your father fell to a heart attack of his own three years ago, and cancer has tried to do in your mother, although she picked the disease up full-court and is holding her own. Your players saw fire spitting out of the engines of their airliner on the way back from a road trip in December and heard flight attendants sobbing as the cabin was prepared for a crash that was ultimately averted.
"Hey, you with the hat," one better-composed stewardess had called out to Dixon. "After we crash, will you help me with the emergency exit?"
Dixon—good kid, game kid—hesitated for just a moment, then said, "If I'm alive, I will."
Afeaki had changed lanes on Thursday night and accidentally cut off the crazy-man, who then tailed him for several blocks. Afeaki pulled over; the crazyman did, too. Afeaki got out of his car and calmly asked if there was a problem. If he hadn't ducked, that .45-caliber bullet might have struck him in the heart. "Two inches," you say, "and he's dead." Still, people wanted to know how you would play Brigham Young, a team whose first-and second-string centers stand, respectively, 7'6" and 6'10", without your backup big man. Under the circumstances, you considered their curiosity oafish. But then you wondered, too. You went back to the hotel—home—where you and your staff commandeered the concierge lounge, studied tapes and devised a way.
You told Watts to take the ball right into the face of the Cougars' thyroidal starting freshman in the pivot, Shawn Bradley. Watts did, outrebounding him 11-10 and scoring 13 points, 3.4 above his average. You went even farther down your bench, and third-string center Larry Cain scored his first basket since December. Then you tapped a walk-on, 6'6" junior forward Sean Mooney, who stepped into the post and gave you four minutes, three fouls and a whole lot of cardiac muscle, "I was Mooney once," you say afterward. "We're like the Little Engine That Could, just chugging uphill. We're the only team in America with a 'DNP—bullet wound' in our box score. The last time I was this happy was when I woke up from surgery alive."
At 24-2—or even at 2-24—if you're Rick Majerus, you're happy to be checked in, because you have glimpsed what it's like to have checked out. But tonight you say to hell with doctor's orders. Tonight, you eat that chocolate on your pillow.