Richard Raymond Majerus (February 17, 1948 – December 1, 2012) was an American basketball coach and TV analyst. He coached at Marquette University (1983–1986), Ball State University (1987–1989), the University of Utah (1989–2004), and Saint Louis University (2007–2012). Majerus's most successful season came at Utah in the 1997–98 season, when the Utes finished as runners-up in the 1998 NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. Majerus was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019.

Rick Majerus
Majerus in the 1977–78 season as Marquette assistant coach
Biographical details
Born(1948-02-17)February 17, 1948
Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedDecember 1, 2012(2012-12-01) (aged 64)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1971–1983Marquette (assistant)
1986–1987Milwaukee Bucks (assistant)
1987–1989Ball State
2007–2012Saint Louis
Head coaching record
Tournaments19–12 (NCAA Division I)
8–4 (NIT)
3–1 (CBI)
Accomplishments and honors
NCAA Regional—Final Four (1998)
MAC regular season (1989)
MAC tournament (1989)
6 WAC regular season (1991, 1993, 1995–1997, 1999)
3 WAC tournament (1995, 1997, 1999)
2 MWC regular season (2000, 2003)
5× WAC Coach of the Year (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999)
MAC Coach of the Year (1989)
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2019

Early life Edit

Majerus was the son of Alyce and Raymond Majerus, a Kohler factory worker and labor leader who was at one time secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers. Rick was raised with sisters Jodi and Tracy.[1]

As a teenager, Rick accompanied his father to the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama, an experience that had a profound impact on him. A voracious reader, his sisters said he read four complete newspapers a day.[2][3]

Majerus graduated from Marquette University High School in 1966. He stayed in Milwaukee, attending Marquette University, where he was the first in his family to attend college. He tried out as a walk-on in the 1967 season and played for the Marquette freshman team. He did not play varsity basketball for Marquette, but stayed on as a student assistant. He graduated in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in history.[1][3]

Coaching career Edit

While at Marquette and serving as a student assistant for the Warriors, Majerus began coaching eighth-graders at St. Sebastian Grade School in Milwaukee, then coached freshmen boys at Marquette University High School.

Marquette (1971–1986) Edit

In 1971, after graduating from Marquette, Majerus became an assistant coach with the Marquette Warriors, where he remained for 12 years, serving under mentor Al McGuire and Hank Raymonds, before taking over as head coach in 1983. He was an assistant under McGuire when the Warriors advanced to the 1974 Final four and won the 1977 NCAA Championship. Longtime NBA player and coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers played at Marquette and it was Majerus that gave Rivers his "Doc" nickname.[1]

As head coach at Marquette, Majerus led the Warriors to a 56–35 (.615) record and three consecutive NIT appearances in his three seasons.

Milwaukee Bucks (1986–1987) Edit

After three years as head coach at Marquette, he became an assistant coach with the National Basketball Association's Milwaukee Bucks for the 1986–87 season, serving under Don Nelson.

Ball State (1987–1989) Edit

He coached at Ball State University for two seasons where he had a record of 43–17. After a 14–14 initial season, Majerus led the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament in the 1988–89 season. The 1988–89 team holds the record for best men's basketball won-lost mark (29–3) in Ball State University history.

Utah (1989–2004) Edit

Majerus accepted the position at Utah in 1989. In leading the "Runnin Utes" to a 1996 sweet 16 match up against Kentucky, Kentucky Coach Rick Pitino had given the opinion that Utah should be favored to win the game. Majerus responded, "if you put the two of us in a sumo ring I'd crush him. On the basketball court, I think we're in trouble."[2]

Majerus led Utah to the Final Four in 1998 NCAA tournament, eventually losing to Kentucky in the National Championship Game after the Utes blew a ten point halftime lead. He was greatly affected by the loss, and claimed to be able to recite the last six minutes of play of the championship game second by second. After the 1998 championship game loss to Kentucky, Majerus responded, "When I die, they might as well bury me at the finish line at Churchill Downs so they can run over me again."[2][4]

While at Utah, he was known for living out of a hotel room, noting that he liked that "There's clean towels, my bed is turned down every night and there's a mint on my pillow, no matter what psychological or emotional crisis the maid is going through."[4][5]

1994 Team USA Edit

He was an assistant coach under Don Nelson for the US national team in the 1994 FIBA World Championship, winning the gold medal.[6]

Majerus left the Utah team after the opening game of the 2000–01 season to rehabilitate his right knee. Intending to return after the first week of 2001, Majerus was hospitalized on New Year's Day 2001 due to chest pains. Later in January 2001, Majerus announced that he would sit out the rest of the season to recover from his own health problems and to be with his ailing mother.[7] He handed over the team to assistant Dick Hunsaker, who guided the team to a 19–10 record and an NIT appearance.[8] Majerus then returned to Utah in the fall of 2001.[9]

Majerus was accused of berating and verbally abuse his players. Lance Allred, who wrote about it in his autobiography Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA, told of his three years at Utah and that Majerus would humiliate him, often targeting his disability—Allred being partially deaf and requiring hearing aids. Allred transferred after the 2001–02 season, but Majerus was later "cleared of any wrongdoing."[10]

He left Utah in January 2004 after 15 seasons and a 323–95 (.773) record, in part to get control of his health; he had previously undergone seven-vessel bypass surgery to his heart in 1989. Majerus was known to swim for an hour per day in his years after surgery.[11]

USC resignation (2004) Edit

On December 15, 2004, Majerus was hired as coach of the University of Southern California basketball team; he was to replace interim coach Jim Saia, who was replacing fired coach Henry Bibby, with Majerus taking over effective April 1, 2005. His contract was scheduled to pay him $5 million over five years.[12]

Majerus gave an energetic and humorous press conference on the day of his hire, but also noted "I hope I die here. I hope I coach here the rest of my life."[4][13] In order to take the position, he needed to buy himself out of his contract as an analyst for ESPN.[14] However, Majerus unexpectedly resigned only five days later in a somber, and at times weeping, press conference. He apologized to the university and stated that his health and fitness were not yet at a stage where he thought he could perform his new duties, noting "I wanted this job so bad I was in denial where my health actually is [...] I realized [USC] wasn't getting the guy they hired. I came to that conclusion myself. I'm not fit for this job by my standards."[15] Years later, however, Majerus would claim that the true reason for his change of mind had not been his health, but rather had been his mother's request that he not take the job, which would have meant his relocation to Los Angeles, far removed from her home in Wisconsin.[16]

ESPN analyst (2004–2007) Edit

Majerus worked as a game and studio analyst for ESPN from 2004 to 2007.

Majerus was a fan favorite and cult figure around college basketball, known for his portly, rotund figure and his quirky, jovial personality. He enjoyed bratwurst, a sausage popular in his native Wisconsin.[17]

Saint Louis (2007–2012) Edit

On April 27, 2007, Majerus accepted the head coaching position at Saint Louis University; his contract was for six years.[18] His tenure at SLU got off to a rocky start; in their first conference game, the Billikens set an NCAA Division I record for fewest points scored in a game in the modern era of college basketball, losing 49–20 to George Washington.[19] However, as he had done previously at other programs, Majerus eventually made SLU a winning program. In 2012, he led the Billikens to their first NCAA Tournament in 12 years, and their first appearance in a major poll in 17 years.

On August 24, 2012, Majerus announced he would not coach the 2012–13 season due to serious heart problems.[20] Jim Crews, one of his assistants, took over for him on a temporary basis for that season.[21] On November 16, it was announced that Majerus was retiring when it was apparent that his heart condition would not improve enough to allow him to return.[22]

Majerus compiled a 95–69 (.579) record at St. Louis University and retired with an overall NCAA record of 517–215 (.706).

On September 18, 2023, SLU named its basketball practice court after the late coach, with his sisters and former players attending the dedication ceremony.

Health and eventual death Edit

For years, Majerus battled health problems due to obesity. He missed all but the first six games of the 1989–90 season, which was his first at Utah, after undergoing septuple-bypass surgery.[7] Then, in September 2000, Majerus had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee but didn't follow a doctor's orders to take a break from basketball; this prevented his knee from healing properly.[7] On New Year's Day 2001, Majerus complained of chest pains and was hospitalized for one week, prompting him to take the rest of the year off from coaching to devote his energies to his health and also to his ailing mother.[7] He returned to coaching in the fall of 2001.[9]

Majerus died of heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital on December 1, 2012, at age 64.[23] He had battled heart trouble for most of the time since 1989.[22]

A public memorial service for current and former athletes, coaches, students, and members of the Saint Louis and University community was held on Friday, December 7, 2012, at 3:30 p.m. at Chaifetz Arena on the SLU campus. His private funeral service was in Milwaukee's Church of the Gesu, on Saturday, December 8, 2012.[24][25]

Saint Louis University athletic director Chris May said of Majerus "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."[1]

Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill said of Majerus upon his passing, "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."[1]

Personal Edit

Majerus's father, Raymond, died of a heart attack at 63 in 1987. Raymond was a former secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers. Majerus was devoted to his mother, Alyce, until her death in August 2011, after initially being diagnosed with cancer in 1987. His mother would take factory work to afford to buy her children Christmas presents. Rick affectionately called her Rosie the Riveter.[1][26][27]

Majerus was married for two years in the mid-1980s and dated the same woman the last 25 years of his life.[1][2]

"He's done so much for basketball at Marquette and all through the state of Wisconsin," Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylan said of his longtime friend. "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."[1]

After undergoing septuple-bypass open-heart surgery at age 41, Majerus quipped: "They did seven bypasses on me—one for each of the major food groups."[2]

In 2015, Majerus's sisters, on behalf of the family, donated $1 million to Marquette University. The donation founded the Rick Majerus Endowed Scholarship, which will help first-generation students in the Helen Way Klingler College of Arts and Sciences. His sister Jodi said, "knowing my mom and dad and the importance they placed on education, and knowing Rick and how he looked at life in general, it feels like a natural thing to do." The Majerus Family Foundation also donated $2 million to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City toward construction of a children's research center. The Foundation also hosts annual dinners for the homeless in Milwaukee on the birthdays of Majerus and each of his parents.[28][3]

"It's funny, sometimes you get around these coaching lifer guys and you think all they know, all they read, is basketball," said Doc Rivers, of Majerus. "You got around Rick and you'd find this extremely well-read, intelligent and political guy. He was such a contradiction between what you saw and who he was. Clearly if we had done something related to sports, that's Rick, but this really tells the story of Rick."

"The thing about Rick was he never wanted to sleep," said longtime coach Bill Foster, Majerus's close friend. "He wanted to sit in a restaurant, order more food and talk basketball. He was never happier than when he was doing that.[2]

Awards and honors Edit

  • WAC Coach of the Year: 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 (media), 1999
  • District Coach of the Year (1991, 1993, 1995, 1996)
  • Playboy Magazine Coach of the Year (1992, 1998)
  • UPI National Coach of the Year (1991)
  • Basketball Times National Coach of the Year (1991)
  • Utah Sports Person of the Year (1992 and 1997)
  • Trademark sweater retired and hung from the rafters at Jon M. Huntsman Center on February 2, 2013
  • St. Thomas More High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin installed the new "Rick Majerus Court" in 2016, with support from the Majerus Family Foundation.[29]
  • Majerus was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame on November 24, 2019.[30]
  • Rick Majerus Court at SLU's Chaifetz Pavilion was dedicated on September 18, 2023

Head coaching record Edit

Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Marquette Warriors (NCAA Division I independent) (1983–1986)
1983–84 Marquette 17–13 NIT Second Round
1984–85 Marquette 20–11 NIT Quarterfinal
1985–86 Marquette 19–11 NIT Second Round
Marquette: 56–35 (.615)
Ball State Cardinals (Mid-American Conference) (1987–1989)
1987–88 Ball State 14–14 8–8 4th
1988–89 Ball State 29–3 14–2 1st NCAA Division I Round of 32
Ball State: 43–17 (.717) 22–10 (.688)
Utah Utes (Western Athletic Conference) (1989–1999)
1989–90 Utah 4–2*
1990–91 Utah 30–4 15–1 1st NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1991–92 Utah 24–11 9–7 T–4th NIT Third Place
1992–93 Utah 24–7 15–3 T–1st NCAA Division I Round of 32
1993–94 Utah 14–14 8–10 T–5th
1994–95 Utah 28–6 15–3 1st NCAA Division I Round of 32
1995–96 Utah 27–7 15–3 1st NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1996–97 Utah 29–4 15–1 1st (Mountain) NCAA Division I Elite Eight
1997–98 Utah 30–4 12–2 1st (Mountain) NCAA Division I Runner-Up
1998–99 Utah 28–5 14–0 1st (Pacific) NCAA Division I Round of 32
Utah Utes (Mountain West Conference) (1999–2004)
1999–00 Utah 23–9 10–4 T–1st NCAA Division I Round of 32
2000–01 Utah 1–0**
2001–02 Utah 24–9 10–4 2nd NCAA Division I Round of 64
2002–03 Utah 25–8 11–3 T–1st NCAA Division I Round of 32
2003–04 Utah 15–5*** 3–2
Utah: 323–95 (.773) 152–43 (.779)
Saint Louis Billikens (Atlantic 10 Conference) (2007–2012)
2007–08 Saint Louis 16–15 7–9 T–9th
2008–09 Saint Louis 18–14 8–8 5th
2009–10 Saint Louis 23–13 11–5 4th CBI Runner-Up
2010–11 Saint Louis 12–19 6–10 T–10th
2011–12 Saint Louis 26–8 12–4 2nd NCAA Division I Round of 32
Saint Louis: 95–69 (.579) 44–36 (.550)
Total: 517–215 (.706)

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

*Coached the first six games before undergoing heart surgery. Assistant Joe Cravens coached the rest of the season.
**Coached the first game before taking a personal leave of absence. Assistant Dick Hunsaker coached the rest of the season.
***Coached the first 20 games before retiring due to health concerns. Assistant Kerry Rupp coached the rest of the season.

Published works Edit

In 2000, he released an autobiography, My Life on a Napkin: Pillow Mints, Playground Dreams and Coaching the Runnin' Utes (ISBN 0-7868-8445-2), co-written by Gene Wojciechowski.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Rick Majerus, college hoops coach, dies at 64". December 2, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Feinstein, John (December 3, 2012). "Remembering Rick Majerus, college basketball's clown prince" – via
  3. ^ a b c "Marquette scholarship embodies Majerus' legacy". April 23, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Bill Dwyre, Livin’ Large, if All Too Briefly, With Majerus, Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2004, Accessed January 16, 2009
  5. ^ Larry Stewart, He Admits to Just One Big Vice, With Relish, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2004, Accessed January 16, 2009
  6. ^ "USA Basketball - Oops, 404 Error!". Archived from the original on November 26, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d "Majerus to Sit Out Season Because of Mother's Health". latimes. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  8. ^ "His 2 loves doing just fine". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "His 2 loves doing just fine". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  10. ^ Associated Press, Utah coach cleared of ex-player's allegations, ESPN, January 22, 2004, Accessed December 5, 2022
  11. ^ "MAJERUS SAYS HE'S SERIOUS ABOUT MARATHON". June 5, 1991. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  12. ^ Paul Gutierrez, Floyd Looks Like a Keeper for Trojans, Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2005, Accessed January 16, 2009
  13. ^ Bill Plaschke, Laughter Belies a Serious Quest, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2004, Accessed January 16, 2009
  14. ^ Paul Gutierrez, It’s a Feel-Good Story, Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2004, Accessed January 16, 2009
  15. ^ Mike Terry and Jason Reid, He Just Wasn’t Fit to Be Tied Down, Los Angeles Times, December 21, 2004, Accessed January 16, 2009
  16. ^ Bill Dwyre (November 25, 2011). "Rick Majerus tells why he gave up USC job in 2004". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ "Rick Majerus Quotes". Archived from the original on April 5, 2007.
  18. ^ "国民娱乐-亚洲最具魅力新型娱乐网". Archived from the original on August 21, 2016.
  19. ^ "Saint Louis sets modern record for fewest points in 49-20 loss to George Washington".
  20. ^ Held, Kevin. "Rick Majerus to sit out 2012-13 season with health issues". Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
  21. ^ "Majerus takes medical leave at SLU, won't coach 2012-13". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. August 24, 2012.
  22. ^ a b Rick Majerus won't return to SLU. ESPN, 2012-11-16.
  23. ^ "Rick Majerus, ex-SLU coach, dies at 64". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 1, 2012.
  24. ^ "Funeral arrangments [sic] for Rick Majerus announced". Archived from the original on January 28, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  25. ^ "Memorial Service Today for Rick Majerus". Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  26. ^ "Alyce Majerus Obituary - Milwaukee, WI - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  27. ^ "Rick Majerus tells why he gave up USC job in 2004". Los Angeles Times. November 25, 2011.
  28. ^ "Rick Majerus' family donates $1 million to Marquette".
  29. ^ "St. Thomas More honors late Coach Rick Majerus". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  30. ^ "Majerus Named To National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame".