|Rick Majerus got his Billikens to the NCAA tournament this past season. (US Presswire)|
I'd be shocked if Rick Majerus coaches another game.
"For him to step down, it's very, very serious," said one person close to the situation. "This is it. I can't imagine him coming back."
All you needed to do was read halfway through Saint Louis University's news release on Friday evening: "The University has not made a decision about the head-coaching position for the 2013-14 season."
That doesn't sound overly optimistic.
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Majerus currently occupies a hospital bed in California being evaluated for an ongoing heart condition. This is a guy who has been through plenty of health issues over the course of his lifetime, some dealing with his heart, others with his leg and then there's those weight issues, which have been there seemingly forever. Unfortunately, this is exactly how many envisioned a remarkable career coming to a conclusion.
Last March, minutes after his team knocked off Memphis in the NCAA tournament, it was clear to me Majerus wasn't much longer for the coaching profession. The two of us were walking side-by-side down the hallway when, after about 50 feet, he asked to stop and sit down on a chair in a small room off to the side. We spoke for about a half-hour while his breathing became labored and his foot writhing in pain. Then, a few months ago, the rumors began about Majerus' health and whether he was going to resign.
I wasn't surprised. No one was.
Make no mistake: Majerus can coach with just about anyone. In terms of X's and O's, there are few better. The guy won 517 career games at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis. He took a decent Saint Louis team to the third round of the NCAA tournament a year ago and gave Michigan State coach Tom Izzo all he could handle. Unfortunately, Majerus' weight, health issues and flammable personality have overshadowed what he's accomplished on the court.
He took the Utes to the national title game in 1998. He has made a habit of taking unheralded guys and developing them into pros. But it would be shocking if he hasn't coached his final game with the Billikens. He'll turn 65 in February and has been dealing with heart issues for a while now.
"It's ongoing," the source said. "Non-stop."
To be truthful, the Saint Louis administration hasn't really want him around, anyway. The Billikens didn't even give him an extension following last season's terrific campaign, a clear sign that they were waiting for a reason to cut ties. The two sides have clashed for the last couple of years, but this isn't the manner anyone wants it to end.
Now Jim Crews, who was run out of Army a few years ago after a seven-year stint as head coach, takes over on an interim basis. He inherits a team that lost just one player from last season's 26-win team, leading scorer Brian Conklin. The Billikens have a stud freshman guard coming in, a kid named Keith Carter out of Chicago who Majerus has openly said will be the second-best floor leader he's ever coached behind NBA veteran Andre Miller.
But it's unlikely Crews, who was brought on prior to last season and is also a heck of a coach, will keep the job unless he takes this team deep into the NCAA tournament.
But Majerus' health is what matters right now. He lost his mother a couple years ago and went into a near-depression. This latest issue could well signal the end of a long, successful, underrated career.
This is a coaching legend, one who hasn't received his just due. Sure, he's rubbed plenty the wrong way with his often-abrasive ways.
Here's hoping he doesn't go out this way, but I'm afraid Majerus' career total will remain at 517.