Legendary College Basketball Coach Rick Majerus Dead at 64
I was saddened to hear the news that Rick Majerus lost his battle to heart disease earlier today. Most people will remember Majerus as a tough, no-nonsense coach who won at Ball State, Marquette, Utah, and St. Louis. In El Paso, however, Majerus will always be revered for the friendship he struck with Don Haskins.
The two giants coached against each other for years in the WAC. Yet, it was when Th Bear entered the hospital suffering from heart problems that Majerus became a big part of his life. The Utah head coach left his team and flew into El Paso to be with Haskins. Majerus stayed with him or days in the hospital and only left Haskins when he knew he was OK. Even when Majerus brought his Utah teams to El Paso, he always received a warm standing ovation from the Don Haskins Center crowd. They never forgot.
I interviewed Majerus on more than one occasion and he used to talk about how much The Bear reminded him of his own father. When the two teams played in El Paso, both Haskins and Majerus would get together and talk basketball and life at Lo’s Blossom, a Chinese food restaurant on Airway. The stories were legendary; both coaches would order 10 plates of food and talk hoops. Coach Haskins would tell me he never met a person with a bigger appetite than Rick Majerus.
In 25 years, Majerus had only one losing season. He took St. Louis to its first NCAA Tournament in 12 seasons and nearly upset Michigan State in the NCAA West Regional. Basketball lost a great coach today and an even better man. Somewhere in heaven, you will find two legendary coaches, talking hoops over a bottle of scotch and some tasty Chinese food.