“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,” Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill said in a statement.
“His standard of excellence extended beyond the basketball court and into the academic and personal success of his players. He will be deeply missed and we grieve for his family and all of his friends.”
Majerus took 12 teams to the NCAA tournament, winning at least one game in all but one of those appearances, with the 1998 Utah team losing to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game. He led four teams to the NIT and took Saint Louis teams to the CBI tournament final in 2009-10.
“It’s a sad day for college basketball,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “Certainly one of the great college basketball coaches. He took talent where they were most effective. When you went up against Coach Majerus and you won you knew you did something special.”
Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels spent a decade as an assistant under Majerus.
“He was a caring man, a gracious man, giving of himself,” Daniels said. “He did so many nice things for me. He taught me how to coach and how to be efficient.”
“We’ve certainly lost a member of the coaching fraternity that all of us respect,” Miller said. “It became very apparent when you prepared for his team and watched him coach against your team that there are very few coaches that are more prepared, more detail-oriented that knew the game comprehensively than Rick Majerus. You could also sense that basketball, the game, the love of the game was really part of his life.”
Majerus was openly critical of Saint Louis’ affiliation in the Atlantic 10, complaining that the travel demands made it too hard to succeed academically. Yet he coached two academic All-Americans at Saint Louis, Brian Conklin and Kevin Lisch.
Majerus was born in Milwaukee and earned a spot on the freshman team at Marquette, his hometown college. He didn’t make the varsity under McGuire, who instead hired him as an assistant coach in 1971.
Three of Majerus‘ players at Utah were first-round NBA draft picks. Keith Van Horn was No. 2 overall in 1997, Michael Doleac 12th in 1998 and Andre Miller eighth in 1999.
Saint Louis is 3-3 this season under interim coach Jim Crews, who joined the staff last season. The Billikens were picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 but have struggled without point guard Kwamain Mitchell, sidelined probably until January with a broken foot.
“Nobody loved basketball and teaching kids more that Rick,” Crews said. “His passion for the game and the coaching profession was unparalleled.”
Majerus‘ father, Raymond, died of a heart attack at 63 in 1987. He was a former secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers. Majerus was devoted to his mother, Alyce, before her death in August 2011.
He was briefly married from 1987-89. He is survived by sisters Jodi and Tracy.