LOS ANGELES – Rick Majerus, the jovial college basketball coach who led Utah to the 1998 NCAA final and had only one losing season in 25 years with four schools, including Ball State, died Saturday. He was 64.
Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman, the coach’s longtime friend, confirmed in a statement released through the Salt Lake Tribune that Majerus died of heart failure in a Los Angeles hospital. The coach had been hospitalized there for several months.
Players remembered Majerus – who was awarded a Mad Anthonys Red Coat in 1998 – as a coach who was exacting and perhaps a bit unorthodox at times, but always fair.
It was a unique experience, I’ll tell you that, and I loved every minute of it, said Saint Louis guard Kyle Cassity, who was mostly a backup on last season’s 26-win team after starting for Majerus earlier in his college career.
A lot of people questioned the way he did things, but I loved it. He’d be hard as hell on you, but he really cared.
The school announced Nov. 19 that Majerus wouldn’t return to Saint Louis because of the heart condition. He ended the school’s 12-year NCAA tournament drought last season, and bounced back from his only losing season, with a team that won its opening game and took top regional seed Michigan State to the wire. The Billikens were ranked for the first time since 1994-95.
Majerus was undergoing evaluation and treatment in California for the ongoing heart trouble, and the school announced he was on leave in late August.
Loyola of Chicago coach Porter Moser, a former Majerus assistant at Saint Louis, tweeted: RIP to my friend and mentor Coach Majerus. I learned so much about the game and life. We lost One of the best! My heart is heavy tonight.
Majerus had a history of heart problems dating to 1989 that persisted despite a daily constitutional of a one-mile swim.
Majerus was 95-69 in five seasons at Saint Louis and had a 25-year record of 517-216. He had his most success at Utah, going 323-95 from 1989 to 2004, going to the NCAA title game in 1998, losing to Kentucky.
He took over at Ball State for the 1987-88 season and led the Cardinals to a 14-14 record. In his next season, his last in Muncie, the Cardinals finished 29-3, won the Mid-American Conference and their first-round NCAA game over Pittsburgh.
The 29 victories remain a Ball State single-season record.