Rick Majerus Rumors
Karl spoke about his friendship with Majerus, who died of heart failure Saturday night after being hospitalized for several months. “It’s still very hard for me,” Karl said before the Nuggets’ 113-110 win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night. “He’s one of my best friends and I think most people in basketball know that. I’m mad at him, I’m angry he’s gone, there’s a lot of emotions going on in my head. Most of it is I’ve got to figure out how to celebrate our friendship for the rest of my life even though he’s not going to be with us.”
Rick Majerus’ solitary season on an NBA bench in 1986-87 was spent as a Milwaukee Bucks assistant to head coach Don Nelson and sidekick to then-Bucks assistant Del Harris. Nelson and Harris quickly became two of Majerus’ closest friends in the game. The longtime college basketball coach’s passing Saturday was thus felt deeply in Dallas, where the Nelson-and-Harris tag team remains firmly entrenched after they reunited with the Mavericks from 2000 through 2007 alongside current Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.
Said Harris on Sunday: “Rick will be known by his friends and those players who followed him closely by one short sentence: He cared. “Regardless of how demanding he was, Rick proved his love for friends and players past and present in a myriad of ways. I have recorded and saved voicemails he has sent me and my son Dominic has saved encouraging letters Rick sent him from years past. Obviously I could go on and on. “He had tons of friends (in the game). He was totally dedicated to his family, particularly caring for his mother after his father died. He called me the brother he never had and I suspect he used that expression a lot.”
Tom Thibodeau, coach of the Chicago Bulls, had known of Majerus through Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers -– it was Majerus, remember, who christened the kid formerly known as Glenn with that nickname (Rivers wore a Julius “Dr. J” Erving T-shirt to a summer basketball camp where Majerus was working). But after Thibodeau got hired by the Bulls in 2010, a friendship developed between the two basketball lifers. That first year, Thibodeau met Majerus in Milwaukee for a long dinner about basketball and life – the stout and curious Majerus rarely had any other kind. Then in the summer of 2011, the two got together – with mutual hoops junkies Scott Layden (now Spurs assistant GM) and Jay Larranaga (Celtics assistant), and Majerus’ girlfriend – for a week in Santa Barbara, Calif.
More coaching chatter. More lavish meals, no matter how low-rent the joint. More philosophizing. Genuine and not one of those sideline strutters from central casting. “We’d talk basketball during the day,” Thibodeau said late Saturday, after the Bulls’ victory over Philadelphia at United Center. “Went out to dinner at night. Went for rides and stuff. He could talk about so many different things. “The guy was just mesmerizing. He could talk about any aspect of the game. I have piles of notes about his basketball philosophy. He’s probably one of the top five basketball coaches at any level.”
Rivers: “That’s a tough one for me. He’s the one that gave me my name. … I knew before the game that he wasn’t going to make it through the night. I don’t want to talk much about it.” Bucks assistant Jim Boylan, the point guard on Marquette’s 1977 NCAA title team: “For me personally he’s always been there. He’s one of those guys where, you don’t see Rick for a while and then when something is going wrong or you needed some help, boom, he’d be there. He did so much for me over the years when I was trying to get my career going, just extending himself and giving you whatever you needed, whether it was a phone call or having me come out to Salt Lake and stay with him 4-5 weeks at a time working. He would basically give you the shirt off his back if that’s what you needed – whatever it took. He’s going to be really missed. A great person.” Milwaukee scout Bo Ellis, top player on that Warriors squad: “When I came to Marquette, Rick was still very young. He was just getting started too. But always prepared. Great basketball mind. I remember, he stole all of [Al McGuire’s] jokes. A good person and a fantastic basketball man.”
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, 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 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.