Hearing the news that St. Louis head coach Rick Majerus passed away on Saturday from heart failure at the age of 64 was tough.
This past summer, I had a chance to talk with Majerus on the phone for a preseason magazine article. It was a preview on his St. Louis Billikens.
Majerus was as polite as could be and very genuine as he answered my questions.
He was so excited about the season ahead. I could hear that excitement in his voice.
St. Louis was coming off of a trip to the NCAA tournament, a trip that ended a 12-year tourney drought, and was headed into this season with the potential to contend for an Atlantic-10 championship.
Majerus told me he expected his team to play to the best of its ability and that he was excited about what his team had a chance to accomplish this year.
It’s unfortunate that Majerus didn’t get a chance to coach this team. He had to step away before the season began to deal with ongoing heart trouble.
In an Associated Press article, interim St. Louis coach Jim Crews had this to say about Majerus.
“Nobody loved basketball and teaching kids more than Rick,” Crews said. “His passion for the game and the coaching profession was unparalleled.”
Without a doubt. Majerus clearly cared about his players, as students and athletes, and he knew how to win games.
In 25 years at four schools, Majerus had one losing season, success that is in no way easy to achieve in this era of college basketball. He went 517-216 in 25 years as a head coach, winning 323 of those games at Utah during a run that included a trip to the 1998 national championship game.
The college basketball world lost one of the best in the business on Saturday. Majerus will be missed and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. He is a member of the United States Basketball Writers Association as well.
Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.