|Majerus directs #24 Andre Miller, #24, on Dec. 2, 1998, in a game against Rhode Island. (Getty Images)|
In the coming hours and days, we're going to hear a lot about Rick Majerus. The stories will be complimentary, funny, plenty not fit for print, and some of them even harsh. The man was complicated but undeniably a coaching great -- no matter the level in discussion. What was his impact? Here's a look through a few lenses at the man who most others in college hoops looked up to for most of the past 25 years.
Stats and facts:
-- Majerus coached for 25 seasons, averaging nearly 21 wins a year.
-- He went to 12 NCAA tournaments, 10 with Utah and one apiece for Saint Louis and Ball State. He won tournament games with all three programs.
-- Saint Louis' 2012 NCAA appearance under Majerus was the first for the school in 12 years. Even better? When the Billikens beat Memphis, it was the first tournament win since 1998 for the program.
-- Majerus' career winning percentage: .705.
-- In 1998, he coached Utah to the second national title game in program history. Utah had a 10-point halftime lead on eventual champions Kentucky.
-- Majerus was respected for his overall hoops acumen, but his surgical and handicapping approach to defense is what birthed and grew his legend. His 2010-11 SLU squad held opponents to 21.9 percent from the 3-point line, that was good for the best 3-point defense in the country that year and the first time Majerus had a team lead the nation in that category.
-- Most wins in a season: 30 (twice with Utah, in '92 and '98).
-- Majerus had eight players earn Academic All-Conference honors at Saint Louis, the most by any Atlantic 10 Conference program during that span.
-- Coached six Academic All-Americans in his career.
-- Four-time WAC Coach of the Year; UPI and Basketball Times Coach of the Year ('91); Wooden Coach of the Year ('98).
-- Was an assistant coach under Don Nelson for the gold medal-winning United States team for the 1994 FIBA World Championship.
All quotes on loan from this fantastic site, filled with Majerus tidbits everywhere.
-- "If we're getting in a sumo ring, he and I, then he's the underdog. I'll crush him. But on the court, we're in trouble." -- Salt Lake Tribune 3/24/1996, Majerus after hearing Pitino cheeklily suggesting UK was an underdog against Utah
-- "Probably Hawaii or Port Douglas, Australia. The Barrier Reef, I like the beach there. I love the beach; the only negative for me on the beach is people keep pushing me back in! They think I'm a whale." -- Denver Post, 2/2/2003, Majerus on his favorite place to visit
-- "Some guys smoke. Some guys drink. Some guys chase women. I'm a big barbecue-sauce guy. ... I'm like that guy on the Odd Couple, and it's not the neat guy. I go into my room and find pieces of pizza under the laundry." -- Arizona Republic, 3/17/1998
-- "It's never easy to win in Las Vegas. I should know with all the money I've lost at the blackjack tables." -- Las Vegas Sun, 1/21/1998
-- "I like to bike. I could beat Lance Armstrong, only because he couldn't pass me if he was behind me." -- USC Press Conference, 12/15/2004
-- "I'm particularly happy to go back to Chicago. I mean, we don't have an Italian restaurant in Utah that ends in a vowel. [In Utah], you're eating at a place like Olson's or something and ordering baked manicotti out of the Chef Boyardee can.'' -- Salt Lake Tribune, 12/03/1997
-- "When I die, they might as well bury me at the finish line at Churchill Downs so they can run over me one more time." -- New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/9/1999, on all the losses to Kentucky
-- Wanted to play college basketball but wasn't good enough. Loved it so much he started as a student assistant. Eventually he convinced another one of the game's greats, Al McGuire, to hire him when he was in his early twenties.
-- Majerus rightfully, pragmatically and endearingly took the NCAA to task at times under the guise of earnest confusion. A coach can't buy his player a meal? Even today, it's a ridiculous rule.
-- Often forgotten: Majerus claimed years after the fact, that his bizarre resignation from the USC job he took in 2004 was not, in fact, due to health. His mom, who was in need of care, ultimately did not want him coaching so far away. (She was in Wisconsin.)
-- To Rick Majerus, it was not offense. It was oh-fence.
-- As noted above, Majerus was not all rosy. Far from it. He could be jovial, but was also a real hard-ass in practice to his players. The accounts were not always pretty, and he took a rightful amount of criticism from outsiders for his behavior behind closed doors.
-- I don't want to spoil it for you. Just read this column.
-- One of the enduring memories for me of Majerus will be how he balled his eyes out back in March, when his team made the NCAAs. (Sadly, I cannot find video of this press conference; it was one of Majerus' most human moments in public.) Update: Here it is. Watch immediately. There was no guarantee he'd get back there, despite his reputation as a great coach. Winning big at Saint Louis had become this kind-of near-impossible thing. But he did it. In his final season, dammit, he he did.
Very sad news about Rick Majerus. I still have the Mark Twain books he made me buy after an interview many years ago...— Kelli Anderson (@KelliAndersonSI) December 2, 2012
I don't have many true friends--guys who would do anything for you--but Rick Majerus was one of them. I can't believe he's gone.— Gene Wojciechowski (@GenoEspn) December 2, 2012
Quoting Rick Majerus: "Never marry a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman will leave you. An ugly woman will leave you, too, but so what?"— Marlen Garcia (@MarlenGarcia777) December 2, 2012
Once heard Rick Majerus speak for an hour on ball screens. Best clinic speech I ever heard. Basketball genius. He will be truly missed. RIP— Ben Wilkins (@CoachWilkinsMSM) December 2, 2012
Went to a Utah practice and watched him work-he would tell a player they had to run 4 lines-Rick wasn't looking-guys went all out— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) December 2, 2012
Rick Majerus told me he found several blacks in Utah to convince Andre Miller's mom it wasn't all white. RIP.— Shaun Powell (@Powell2daPeople) December 2, 2012
It was an honor and a privilege to work for Coach Majerus in his last 4 years coaching! Incredible basketball mind, unbelievably big heart!— Chris Harriman (@chrisharriman24) December 2, 2012
Rick Majerus once traded me a leather Final Four bag for a stack of my Blue Ribbon books. I'm gonna hang on to that bag. RIP.— Chris Dortch (@cdortch) December 2, 2012
I'll never forget that Rick Majerus gave me a biography of Roberto Clemente for my 18th birthday. Such a caring person.— Ben Weixlmann (@BWeixScout) December 2, 2012
I'll wrap it up with this. Fran Fraschilla -- who wrote about Majerus tonight -- was recently on our podcast. He spoke of Majerus and what exactly made him such a great coach. It's a good listen. Go to the 24:30 mark to hear the stories.