Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
FILE - In this March 18, 2012, file phot, Saint Louis head coach Rick Majerus reacts during the first half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament third-round game against Michigan State in Columbus, Ohio. Majerus will not return to the team because of a serious heart condition. Majerus has been undergoing evaluation and treatment in California for ongoing heart trouble. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Kragthorpe: Majerus’ legacy will live on in those he touched

Former Utah coach will be missed, but his knowledge of the game will be passed down.

First Published Dec 08 2012 03:21 pm • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:32 pm


In so many ways, Rick Majerus’ story seems like a classic case of a life unfinished.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Yet there’s some truth in the scriptural theme of Saturday’s funeral Mass on the campus of Marquette University, where Majerus began his basketball coaching career and now, as cited in 2 Timothy, has "finished the race."

As so often in his coaching life, it is up to others to complete Majerus’ work in the sport he loved so much.

There’s symbolism in how he needed three assistant coaches — Joe Cravens, Dick Hunsaker and Kerry Rupp — to finish seasons for him at various times in his 15-year Utah tenure. It also is telling that to keep living beyond age 64, whether he coached again or not, Majerus would have required someone else’s heart, transplanted into his body.

And now another interim coach is filling in for him, as Jim Crews leads Saint Louis University’s team in Majerus’ permanent absence.

There’s some emptiness at SLU, where Majerus coached for five seasons and intended to keep working, until his health forced him to step away in August. Seeing those 15 players walk alongside Majerus’ casket Saturday drove home how much he will be missed — to a much more emotional degree than when he left Utah in 2004.

I only can imagine how the Billikens are feeling. As poignant and entertaining as philanthropist Jon M. Huntsman Sr. and former Ute player Al Jensen were in their remarks Saturday, I missed hearing the words directly from the man himself, one of the great storytellers of our time.

Here in his hometown, I would have loved to hear his tales about shooting hoops on the Franklin Square playground, working at the Pabst Brewery during his college summers, coaching at every level from eighth grade to the NBA and, of course, about food — like the pizza at Palermo’s and the bratwurst with the old County Stadium’s secret mustard, for starters.

Majerus is one of those people who will be noticeable in his absence, just like when the Utes played in Milwaukee in 2004.

story continues below
story continues below

After the service Saturday, I walked around the Bradley Center, where Utah’s final season of the Majerus era ended without him. Majerus had walked away from his job in late January. Rupp took the Utes to the NCAA Tournament, but they struggled offensively in a loss to Boston College. You just knew Majerus would have figured out something to solve BC’s defense, but he was gone.

Nearly nine years later, the blessing of Majerus’ passing is that he won’t be forgotten at his former schools. For various reasons, his death was required to make him revered again at Utah.

The Utes and Marquette’s players are wearing "RM" patches on their jerseys. Marquette’s tribute began with Saturday’s meeting with Wisconsin, shortly before the Utah-BYU game in Provo.

Majerus thrived in those rivalry games, but he gave every opponent his full effort. He loved coaching basketball — at any level. That’s his legacy.

In a response to the coach’s online obituary, Mark Mageras, a Utahn whose name sounds just like "Majerus," told of working in the Utes’ summer camps for 13 years. "I was a nobody in the basketball world," Mageras wrote, "and he treated me like a somebody."

Majerus coached the St. Sebastian eighth-graders in Milwaukee on his way up in the profession; Mageras coached at higher levels before taking over a girls team in Layton.

"Ninety percent of what I teach my players," Mageras wrote, "I learned from Rick."

Similarly, former Ute All-America forward Keith Van Horn recently said Majerus would be "shocked" to discover how much he emphasizes fundamentals to the girls he coaches in suburban Denver. So it is that Majerus’ work will live on — with Van Horn’s youngest daughter, the girls at Legacy Junior High and beyond.


Twitter: @tribkurt

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.