I wasn't surprised when I heard the news because I knew Rick Majerus wasn't well. Folks in basketball circles had said as much. I assumed he'd never coach again. I was told he might not live another year. So I expected this day to come. Someday. And soon. So when somebody called Saturday and informed me that the iconic college coach was dead at the age of 64, I texted a colleague, told my wife and went on about my night.
Then my son went to bed.
Then my wife started watching a movie.
Then I sat down at this computer and found a press conference from last March after Saint Louis lost to Michigan State in the Round of 32 of the NCAA tournament, and now I'm on my couch, watching videos, reading stories, just sick about the sport losing a fascinating man far too soon.
Was Rick Majerus perfect?
He had his faults.
He had his enemies.
But click this link and watch the full 21:59 of what ended up being the final press conference after the final game of Majerus' life and see if it doesn't get you. Watch Majerus talk about his departing seniors at the 1:04-mark and see if you can hold it together. Watch one of those seniors, Brian Conklin, talk about Majerus at the 6:20-mark and see if your eyes match Conklin's. Skip to Majerus acknowledging that he's "just burned out" at the 14:25-mark and see if you shake your head. Then go to the 19:08-mark, listen to the moderator say "Last question for Coach Majerus" and see if you take a deep breath considering you now know it really was the last question for Coach Majerus.
And it was a perfect question.
Or, at least, it was a perfect moment.
The question came from a student reporter from SLU. But before it could even be asked, Majerus introduced the student reporter to the assembled media, called him a "great kid" and said, "It's appropriate that you're asking the last question. ... The Circle of Life."
Then Majerus laughed.
Then everybody laughed.
I smiled and teared up a little.
I've been a student reporter and know what it's like to be intimidated by a coach, by the scene, by everything, and so it was really cool to watch Majerus make that kid's day. This was after a loss, after a devastating defeat that literally brought Majerus to tears. And yet he smiled when the student reporter grabbed the microphone -- the student's name is Derrick Neuner; he wrote this just three days ago -- and Majerus seemed genuinely pleased by his presence.
The "Circle of Life" comment is numbing.
It's almost like Majerus was looking at that kid and imagining the future ahead of him while realizing, deep down, that he himself might not have many years or months left. "I wanna live your life," Majerus said to the kid. And though I didn't think much of it last March, when I watched that moment tonight what I saw was an unhealthy old man looking at a healthy young man and thinking about how great it would be to rewind 45 years and do it all over again.
I guess we'll all reach that point someday -- probably sooner than we realize.
But that doesn't make that moment any easier to watch on video.
And it doesn't make these moments any simpler to digest.