Correction: Obit-Majerus story
In a story Dec. 2 about the death of college basketball coach
Rick Majerus, The Associated Press reported erroneously that he was
born in Milwaukee. He was born in Sheboygan, Wis.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Rick Majerus, college basketball coach, dies
Rick Majerus, jovial coach who led Utah to 1998 NCAA final
against Kentucky, dies at 64
By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) – At Rick Majerus’ final stop, the lone
concession to the coach’s health woes were the footstools stationed
at each corner of the practice court.
Close by anytime he needed a breather. Close enough, too, to
jump up for some hands-on assistance with the proper stance or to
lead a quick walkthrough.
The jovial, basketball-obsessed coach who led Utah to the 1998
NCAA final and had only one losing season in 25 years with four
schools, died Saturday. He was 64.
Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman, the coach’s longtime friend,
confirmed in a statement released through The Salt Lake Tribune
that Majerus died of heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital. The
coach had been hospitalized there for several months.
Players remembered Majerus, who got his start as an assistant
under Al McGuire at Marquette, as a coach who was exacting and
perhaps a bit unorthodox at times, but always fair. Majerus was
known for assembling rosters with an international flair, and his
final team at Saint Louis had players from Australia and New
”It was a unique experience, I’ll tell you that, and I loved
every minute of it,” said Saint Louis guard Kyle Cassity, who was
mostly a backup on last season’s 26-win team after starting for
Majerus earlier in his college career. ”A lot of people questioned
the way he did things, but I loved it. He’d be hard as hell on you,
but he really cared.”
At the postgame news conference following Saint Louis’
four-point loss to top seed Michigan State in the NCAA West
Regional, Majerus and his players wept.
”Coach has done so much,” Brian Conklin said back then.
”Being his first recruiting class, he told me that we were going
to help him build something special here. He’s a great coach. I
couldn’t imagine playing for a better coach, a better person. He
doesn’t just teach you about basketball, it’s about life.”
Saint Louis athletic director Chris May said in a statement that
what he would remember most about Majerus ”was his enduring
passion to see his players excel both on and off the court.”
”He truly embraced the term `student-athlete,’ and I think that
will be his lasting legacy,” May added.
The school announced Nov. 19 that Majerus wouldn’t return to
Saint Louis because of the heart condition. He ended the school’s
12-year NCAA tournament drought last season, and bounced back from
his only losing season, with a team that won its opening game and
took top regional seed Michigan State to the wire. The Billikens
were ranked for the first time since 1994-95.
Majerus was undergoing evaluation and treatment in California
for the ongoing heart trouble and the school announced he was on
leave in late August.
”That’s a tough one for me,” Boston coach Doc Rivers, a former
Marquette star, said after the Celtics’ loss in Milwaukee. ”He’s
the one that gave me my nickname. I knew before (the game) that he
wasn’t going to make it through the night. I don’t want to talk
much about it.”
San Diego State coach Steve Fisher first met Majerus at a camp
when Majerus was a graduate assistant at Marquette and Fisher was
coaching at the high school level in Chicago.
”Rick would hold court at night with a case of beer in the
basement,” Fisher said. ”Phenomenal coach, a better person, cared
about family, cared about people. He will be missed by
Loyola of Chicago coach Porter Moser, an assistant under Majerus
at Saint Louis from 2007-10, tweeted, ”RIP to my friend and mentor
Coach Majerus. I learned so much about the game and life. We lost
One of the best! My heart is heavy tonight.”
Missouri coach Frank Haith said it was a ”sad day for all of
”Coach Majerus was a tremendous coach and one of the all-time
great personalities in our profession,” Haith said. ”Our hearts
and prayers go out to Rick’s family and friends and all the
wonderful student-athletes and staff at Saint Louis
Majerus had a history of heart and weight problems dating to
1989 that persisted despite a daily constitutional of a mile swim.
He had a stent inserted in August 2011 in Salt Lake City and missed
some games in the 2011-12 season after gashing his leg in a
collision with players.
He backed out of a commitment to coach Southern California due
to heart problems.
Majerus was 95-69 in five seasons at Saint Louis and had a
25-year record of 517-216, with 15 20-win seasons and two 30-win
seasons. He had his most success at Utah, going 323-95 from
1989-2004. He was at Marquette from 1983-86, and Ball State from
Ball State was 29-3 in 1988-89 under Majerus, including the
school’s first NCAA tournament victory. At Utah, Majerus produced
10 conference championships in 13 seasons.
”Rick left a lasting legacy at the University of Utah, not only
for his incredible success and the national prominence he brought
to our basketball program, but also for the tremendous impact he
made on the young men who were fortunate enough to play on his
teams,” Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill said in a
”His standard of excellence extended beyond the basketball
court and into the academic and personal success of his players. He
will be deeply missed and we grieve for his family and all of his
Majerus took 12 teams to the NCAA tournament, winning at least
one game in all but one of those appearances, with the 1998 Utah
team losing to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game. He led four
teams to the NIT and took Saint Louis teams to the CBI tournament
final in 2009-10.
”It’s a sad day for college basketball,” UNLV coach Dave Rice
said. ”Certainly one of the great college basketball coaches. He
took talent where they were most effective. When you went up
against Coach Majerus and you won you knew you did something
Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels spent a decade as an
assistant under Majerus.
”He was a caring man, a gracious man, giving of himself,”
Daniels said. ”He did so many nice things for me. He taught me how
to coach and how to be efficient.”
Arizona coach Sean Miller coached against Majerus when he was at
Xavier and Majerus was at Saint Louis.
”We’ve certainly lost a member of the coaching fraternity that
all of us respect,” Miller said. ”It became very apparent when
you prepared for his team and watched him coach against your team
that there are very few coaches that are more prepared, more
detail-oriented that knew the game comprehensively than Rick
Majerus. You could also sense that basketball, the game, the love
of the game was really part of his life.”
Majerus as a mentor to Ben Howland during the UCLA coach’s days
at UC Santa Barbara and Northern Arizona.
”He was a great coach and a really, really good person”
Howland said. ”It’s a sad day for basketball because he was a
Majerus was openly critical of Saint Louis’ affiliation in the
Atlantic 10, complaining that the travel demands made it too hard
to succeed academically. Yet he coached two academic All-Americans
at Saint Louis, Conklin and Kevin Lisch.
Majerus was born in Sheboygan, Wis., 60 miles north of
Milwaukee, and earned a spot on the freshman team at Marquette. He
didn’t make the varsity under McGuire, who instead hired him as an
assistant coach in 1971.
Majerus’ ties to Wisconsin included a one-year stint as
assistant coach with the NBA’s Bucks in 1987-88.
”He’s done so much for basketball at Marquette and all through
the state of Wisconsin,” Bucks assistant coach Jim Boylan said.
”For me personally, he’s always been there. He’s one of those guys
who, if you don’t see Rick for a while and when something was going
wrong and you needed help, boom, he’d be there. He’d basically give
you the shirt off his back, if that’s what you needed.”
Three of Majerus’ players at Utah were first-round NBA draft
picks. Keith Van Horn was No. 2 overall in 1997, Michael Doleac
12th in 1998 and Andre Miller eighth in 1999.
Saint Louis is 3-3 this season under interim coach Jim Crews,
who joined the staff last season. The Billikens were picked to
finish second in the Atlantic 10 but have struggled without point
guard Kwamain Mitchell, sidelined probably until January with a
”Nobody loved basketball and teaching kids more that Rick,”
Crews said. ”His passion for the game and the coaching profession
Majerus’ father, Raymond, died of a heart attack at 63 in 1987.
He was a former secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers.
Majerus was devoted to his mother, Alyce, before her death in
He was briefly married from 1987-89. He is survived by sisters
Jodi and Tracy.
The portly coach was unabashed in his love of food, always quick
with a restaurant recommendation for whatever town his teams were
His autobiography, ”My Life On a Napkin,” came out in
AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this
Follow R.B. Fallstrom on Twitter at (at)rbfallstromAP