“Some guys smoke. Some guys drink. Some guys chase women. I am a big barbecue sauce guy.” — Rick Majerus.
The first day of December witnessed good college football and basketball, but will be most remembered for tragedy in the morning and evening.
After learning that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend then himself (which Bob Costas shamefully exploited the following night for political gain) — and that the NFL disrespectfully made the Chiefs play a football game Sunday — we were informed legendary college basketball coach Rick Majerus had died of heart failure in Los Angeles.
He was 64-years-old.
Majerus didn’t compile championships like John Wooden, Bob Knight nor Dean Smith, but like those legends he was a throwback leader — as those who watched him coach games or practices noticed.
Like Mr. Wooden, Majerus considered himself a basketball teacher more than a coach.
An affable, passionate, yet complex and cerebral man, Majerus was a Wisconsin native who came of age in Milwaukee, attending Marquette High School and then Marquette University. By age 23, he was an assistant at the school under legendary coach Al McGuire before becoming the head man in 1983.
Majerus appropriately coached briefly in basketball-crazy Indiana (29-3 record at Ball State in 1988-89), but was most well-known leading the University of Utah Runnin’ Utes over 15 years.
Until Butler University’s 2010 and 2011 National Title game appearances, his 1997-1998 Salt Lake City squad — with future NBA players Michael Doleac and Andre Miller — was the last “mid major” in the Championship Game. (Utah actually led by double-digits against the heavily-favored Wildcats before fading in the second half.)
After health took Majerus away from the sport — most figured permanently — from 2004 to 2007, he returned to Saint Louis University where, in his final campaign, he took the Billikens from mediocrity to the NCAA Tournament’s third round this past spring. It was the school’s first March Madness appearance since 2000 and SLU’s best basketball season in more than 20 years.
Majerus racked up nearly 100 wins along the Mississippi in five years.
In 25 seasons, he also captured 71 percent of his total games and tallied more than 500 overall wins. Majerus took teams to March Madness in nearly half of those seasons.