Dan Majerle is back in coaching — but not in the NBA.
Grand Canyon University on Monday named Majerle its new basketball coach at a press conference at the school’s new 5,000-seat arena. The 47-year-old Majerle replaces Russ Pennell, who went 72-44 in four seasons at GCU and took the Antelopes to the NCAA Division II tournament the past two years.
“Phoenix is my home, and Grand Canyon is Phoenix’s hometown university,” Majerle said. “When the Suns held training camp on the GCU campus a little more than a year ago, I saw for myself the commitment to excellence that this school has made. … The facilities for student-athletes are incredible. I’m excited to be a part of the great things happening here.”
Majerle had been an assistant with the Suns and a candidate for their head coaching job after Alvin Gentry and the team parted ways in January, but he did not remain on the staff following the hiring of Lindsey Hunter as interim coach. He spent five years on the Suns’ bench after also playing for the team for eight seasons during a 14-year career. He made three NBA All-Star teams and was inducted into the Suns’ Ring of Honor following his retirement in 2002.
“The appointment of Dan Majerle as our men’s basketball coach is a big day for Grand Canyon,” said Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and chief executive officer. “At a time when we are raising our profile in Arizona and throughout the West, Dan will bring instant name recognition not only to our basketball program but to the entire university. He will be a great coach and fantastic ambassador for us.”
Grand Canyon is in the midst of a significant investment in its sports programs, as the athletic department is transitioning to full Division I membership starting with the 2013-14 academic year and has already accepted membership in the Western Athletic Conference. Mueller also retained former Suns owner and longtime sports executive Jerry Colangelo to assist in GCU’s coaching search after Pennell resigned last week in what the school called a mutual decision.
“There’s a reason Dan Majerle is in the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor,” Colangelo said. “Coaches, teammates and fans loved the work ethic and passion that he brought to the basketball court. He didn’t back down from guarding Michael Jordan, and he will have the same focus and determination as Grand Canyon’s coach.”
No other members of Majerle’s coaching staff were announced Monday, nor were terms of Majerle’s contract. He is the 13th coach in the history of the program, which dates to 1949.