Some guys collect old cars. Some mount deer heads on their walls. Some hide away a stash of Halloween candy. Some hoard foreign currency. Some own a drawer full of ticket stubs. Some hold on to shoe boxes full of baseball cards.
One of my hobbies over the years has been collecting humorous, and revealing, quotes about BYU sports.
This week, I’m sharing some of the best quips and quotes I’ve heard or read about Cougar basketball from the period of 1980-2001.
For many of you younger fans, you’ve probably never heard these quotes, and you might learn a little something about BYU basketball history. For the older crowd, like me, it will be an entertaining stroll down memory lane.
“Much of the credit for BYU’s turnaround must go to the boyish Danny Ainge (the name is French and pronounced to rhyme with range), who uses a razor blade only to cut the tape off his ankles.”
— Joe Jares, Sports Illustrated, 1980
“The ball came into Ainge, who looked neither right nor left but to the basket. He broke into a dribble, went behind his back to the center-line, cut through heavy traffic like a fire chief late for lunch, his siren blaring, roared into the circle, found the door open and drove into the hoop, sank a little, simple playground layup, and everywhere Irish were left in grief.”
— Furman Bisher, Atlanta Journal Constitution, on Ainge’s coast-to-coast game-winner against Notre Dame in the 1981 NCAA tournament.
“In its quest for territorial supremacy of the Holy Eastern Empire, Brigham Young, the Mormon all-white group from Provo, has captured a few fans on novelty alone, particularly in the win over the Irish Catholics of Notre Dame on Thursday. But one woman who watched them play Thursday didn’t go for it. ‘They’re too clean-cut,’ she said, nodding disdainfully. ‘They don’t drink, they don’t dance, they don’t mess around. What kind of fun can you have?’”
— Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1981.
“BYU is an outstanding team that hasn’t got any recognition because it’s in the wrong time zone.”
— Broadcaster Al McGuire in 1981
“I’m reminded of adversity every time I look at the back of one of my baseball cards that the kids make me sign. And I usually try to sign the back of them so I can cover up all my statistics.”
— Ainge, who played for the Toronto Blue Jays before becoming a full-time NBA player.
“I just say, unequivocally, that if a coach came here and wanted to control the ball and didn’t want to fast break — even if it might be the right thing to do with the personnel — you’d have 13,000 showing up instead of 22,000, and then it would be 8,000. They wouldn’t put up with that. They’d change coaches before that time.”
— Coach Ladell Anderson in 1984 in an interview with Sport Magazine.
“We were walking around through a playground one day when some kids were playing soccer. There were some basketball hoops there and the ball came over to me and I thought, ‘I’ll go over and dunk it for them.’ But then I thought, ‘Nah. I don’t want these kids thinking of me as a basketball player. I want them to think of me as a missionary. So I just kicked it back to them.”
— BYU basketball player Devin Durrant.
“I remember my mom’s advice to me before each home game: ‘Wave to me tonight, and don’t forget to shoot.’”
— Devin Durrant, BYU’s No. 4 all-time leading scorer.
“I always wanted to coach a Jew, but I never thought I’d get a Mormon.”
— Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps to Michael Smith on a recruiting trip to Hacienda Heights, Calif. Smith signed with BYU.
“They didn’t know how to guard me. They didn’t know whether I was coming or going.”
— BYU basketball player Bryan Fink, on discovering that he had put his shorts on backwards during a game against Fordham in 1986
“What’s with these missions? They hid you away and you get to work out for two years, right?”
— Wyoming star Fennis Dembo to BYU star Michael Smith after he returned from a mission to Argentina.
“It was just so far away that my mom didn’t want me to come out so far at first. None of my family had ever been that far west, and we just didn’t know what it might be like. I didn’t really know much about BYU, either. I knew about Danny Ainge and Jim McMahon, and I heard about Steve Young. I had seen a bunch of football scores that were like 60-0. But when it flashed through my mind, I remembered how green the grass was when I saw a BYU football game and I thought BYU was somewhere in northern California because it was so pretty.”
— BYU basketball player Jeff Chatman, a native of Alabama
“A popular axiom in the WAC is, ‘Hit the road and the road hits back.’ No team knows this better than Brigham Young, which the rest of the West loves to hate. When the Cougars aren’t taking abuse from foreign crowds on subjects ranging from polygamy to Marie Osmond, they often get showered with ice, cups, and paper airplanes. In Laramie, fans have even heated pennies with cigarette lighters and flipped them toward the Cougar bench. But a sign reading ‘The Boys from Brazil’ that greeted BYU at Texas-El Paso last month struck Michael Smith, the Cougars’ 6-foot-9 ambidextrous forward as relatively benign. ‘I guess it’s because all of us who’ve been on missions,’ Smith said. ‘But, you know, none of us went to Brazil. I went to Argentina, Andy (Toolson) went to Chile, Brian (Taylor) went to Spain.’ Smith was blithely unaware that the title was used by Ira Levin for his 1976 novel about young Nazis. Unfazed by its tormentors, BYU has used an ingenious offense and uncommon maturity — five of its seven players are returned missionaries — to become this season’s major astonishment. The Cougars sometimes speak Spanish to each other on the court to hide their strategy from opponents, but they play honorably and hard.”
— Sports Illustrated, Feb. 8, 1988. The Cougars opened the season 17-0 and ascended to No. 2 in the polls.
“I knew it had a chance to go in; I had an idea it would be near the basket.”
— BYU forward Kevin Nixon, on his 54-foot buzzer-beating shot that won the 1992 WAC tournament title against UTEP.
“I’ve felt more fondly toward Ken Roberts than any woman I’ve ever known. That’s probably why I’m not married.”
— Former Utah coach Rick Majerus on former BYU basketball player Ken Roberts, who he tried to recruit out of Bingham High.
“That’s what we live with. Guys look at us and they think, ‘Who are these guys?’ I love it. So the BYU ski team is up here, doing well against some great basketball teams.”
— Mark Durrant, talking about when a store clerk in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1994, thought BYU’s players were part of a ski team. Instead, the Cougars advanced to the Great Alaska Shootout championship game.
“I think if he would have traveled with us to Laramie and Cheyenne a few more times, he would have picked a different name.”
— Coach Roger Reid, joking in 1994 about the name Shawn Bradley and his wife gave to their daughter, Cheyenne. Bradley played just one season for BYU before declaring for the NBA draft during his mission.
“If they feel good about how hard they work, and go in and throw up a little bit after a game, that’s all I ask.”
— Coach Roger Reid on what he expects from his players.
“I don’t like combing it. This is economical. Doesn’t require any hair gel. And it never gets in my eyes.”
— BYU forward Ken Roberts on his signature flat-top.
“I can’t imagine (the BYU-Utah rivalry) meaning more to anyone than me, Randy (Reid) and Robbie (Reid). I grew up in Salt Lake a BYU fan. I have deep psychological problems from childhood because of that.”
— BYU basketball player Mark Durrant in 1995.
“I guess I’ll be popular with Utah fans for a few years.”
— BYU freshman Nathan Cooper after unwittingly etching his name into BYU-Utah basketball lore after getting into a brief tussle with Ute star Keith Van Horn at the Huntsman Center in 1996. After that, during his remaining three years of eligibility — which was interrupted by a two-year mission — he was a target of wrath for Ute boosters, who booed him mercilessly every time he touched the ball.
“I was so nervous at the start, I felt like Mark Fuhrman at the Million Man March.”
— Hawaii guard Tes Whitlock, on his feelings before his team’s 94-87 win over BYU in 1996 at the Marriott Center.
“Duke got four Chris Burgesses this year. And they’ll get four next year, too. I lugged this old hips up and down stairs and sat in all those gymnasiums … yeah, I’m disappointed. I have ten plays all ready for Chris Burgess. I lay awake at nights and thought of plays for him.”
— Roger Reid on losing recruit Chris Burgess to Duke.
“When I joined the Church, Budweiser had to lay off the third shift.”
— Cougar coach Tony Ingle.
“We’re like a cross-eyed discuss thrower. We’re not going to set any records, but we’ll keep people’s attention.”
— BYU interim coach Tony Ingle in the midst of a 1-25 season.
“We worked four years to get to this point. We wouldn’t be denied tonight. This is a great moment for BYU. It’s a Cinderella story. It would have been really hard to imagine we would be here four years ago.”
— Mekeli Wesley after he scored 30 points to help BYU beat New Mexico in the 2001 Mountain West Conference tournament championship, four years after the Cougars experienced an embarrassing 1-25 season.