Anyone who has followed college basketball the past few decades probably knows a good Rick Majerus story or two.
There was the time he promised to quit at Utah if false allegations that freshman Britton Johnson had used a racial slur during the 1998 NCAA tournament turned out to be true. Or the day in 2005 when while working as an ESPN analyst, he favorably compared footage of actress Ashley Judd at a Kentucky game to watching adult videos in his hotel room. Or the introductory press conference at Saint Louis in 2007 when the school president began his speech by explaining Majerus’ last name meant “great” in Latin only to have the coach correct him, telling reporters, “I think it means sausage-eater.”
Examples like those of Majerus’ rollicking sense of humor and larger-than-life personality are one of many reasons he’ll be missed in college basketball circles. The former Utah and Saint Louis coach died Saturday at age 64, barely three months after he took a leave of absence from his job as head coach of the Billikens citing heart issues and other health concerns.
Majerus’ girlfriend confirmed the news of his death to USA Today on Saturday.
The legacy Majerus leaves is as multi-layered as his personality. He was a brilliant strategist, an off-the-cuff comedian, a devoted family man and a tragic figure who battled weight issues.
Majerus amassed a career record of 517-215, taking Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis to the NCAA tournament a total of 11 times and leading the 1998 Utes on an improbable run to the national title game. Along the way, he built a reputation as an Xs-and-Os mastermind, more comfortable turning a group of lightly recruited players into a formidable team than coaching at a “Cindy Crawford program” as he often referred to the North Carolinas and Dukes of the world.