Rick Majerus, basketball coaching tactician, dies
by Nicole Auerbach and Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
Rick Majerus, who won more than 70 percent of his games as a men’s college basketball coach and took Utah to the 1998 national championship game, died Saturday at age 64.
Majerus’ girlfriend, Angie Kvidera, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that Majerus died Saturday in Los Angeles.
The final on-court chapter in Majerus’ career was a fitting one: a 65-61 loss in a taut chess match against another of the sport’s great bench coaches, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Majerus concluded a 25-year head coaching career – which included stops at his alma mater Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis – with a 517-215 record. He reached the NCAA tournament 12 times, most notably leading Utah to the 1998 national title game before losing to Kentucky. Last season he took the Billikens to the NCAAs for the first time in 12 years.
He was an exceptional basketball mind and a teacher of the game who learned as a student assistant and later full-time assistant under the legendary Al McGuire. But his personality was far more complicated. He was alienating to some but the first person to reach out when a former player lost a loved one. And he took time off from coaching at one point to tend to his ill mother.
One of the episodes that best encapsulated what often appeared like a man conflicted was his pursuit of the USC head coaching job in 2004. That December, upon accepting the job, he was euphoric, saying during his introductory news conference, “I hope I die here. I hope I coach here the rest of my life.”
Los Angeles media dubbed him a unique additional to a West Coast locale already with its share of quirky eccentrics in entertainment and sports. Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times wrote that Majerus would have been “a John Belushi of jockstraps.”
But a career at USC never materialized. Within a week, Majerus reneged on his commitment and returned to ESPN as an analyst after an emotional news conference in which he said he was “in denial where … [For more on Rick Majerus, basketball coaching tactician, dies, click here.]