Billikens get emotional victory over Valpo

By Ben Weixlmann/

ST. LOUIS Less than 24 hours after former Saint Louis University men’s basketball head coach Rick Majerus passed away, the Billikens defeated Valparaiso 62-49 on Sunday afternoon at Chaifetz Arena. 

SLU observed a moment of silence in his honor, which was followed by an impromptu 40-second standing ovation and a loud chanting of his name from the home crowd.

Thoughts have poured from all over the nation after learning of the passing of one of the most cherished minds in the sport.  Many friends, players, coaches, and media members have paid their respects to the legendary coach.

“Majerus was one of the premiere coaches in college basketball history and a dedicated mentor to thousands of young men and women. We will miss him greatly,” longtime friend Jon Huntsman Sr. told the Salt Lake City Tribune in a statement.

“There are so many good memories,” former Billiken standout Brian Conklin said.  “Our senior night when Kyle [Cassity] and I were his last recruiting class was special.  Just going through the four years with him and learning so much.”

The Billikens held the visiting Crusaders to 32.6 percent shooting today, a figure that would’ve surely made him proud. 

“It’s been a tough 24 hours,” assistant coach Tanner Bronson said.  “It’s been tough to see the guys and their reaction after they heard the news.  I think that’s a testament to what his life was. . .it’s a great tribute with what happened tonight in the game and how the guys responded.”

Unfortunately, as much time as he spent worrying about an opponent’s defense or helping out a friend in need, he didn’t look after himself enough.  His weight issues were well documented.  He suffered from a plethora of health complications that ultimately led to his death. 

“He cared so much about other people,” senior forward Cody Ellis said.  “He never cared about himself.  As long as other people were happy, he was happy.”

Majerus cared about so many, but none more than his beloved mother Alyce, who died in 2011. 

“What I’ll remember most was Coach’s genuine love and care for his mom,” SLU Assistant Director of Athletics Brian Kunderman tweeted Saturday evening.

Despite his sweet and compassionate demeanor towards his mother, Majerus was known for his “tough love” approach to the game.  It wasn’t always pretty. The practices and film sessions were often grueling. His game planning was thorough and painstakingly detailed. His meticulous preparation was unlike any other

“He would’ve practiced three hours every day if he could and never played games,” Conklin said.  “There would be days where we were having a great practice, and we just couldn’t stop.  He loved watching great basketball.”

“He really enjoyed being around the guys and teaching young men the game of basketball,” Bronson said.  “[Practice] was the fun part for him. . .the game was just the chance for the guys to show what they could do.  The practice was really where he thrived.  He was in his realm when he was on the practice floor.”

Paul Biancardi, who served as an assistant coach under Majerus at Saint Louis in his first season, said he would remember him for his genuine appreciation for those close to him.  After leaving Majerus’ staff to become the Director of Basketball Recruiting for ESPN there was one thing that he wanted so badly to take with him – the full season’s worth of practice films.  This is a rare practice, but it showed the respect and trust that Majerus had for those within his inner circle.

 “Those tapes are something I cherish to this day,” he said. “He was just that kind of person.  He would tell me how I had a great wife and kids.  How he wanted to live my life.”

Each and every person has a different memory of Rick Majerus, but that’s perhaps the most special part of it all.  He may be gone, but his legacy and imprint on the game will last for years to come.