Rick Majerus dies at 64; college basketball coach

Rick Majerus, the 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 Sr., 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.

Majerus said Nov. 19 that he wouldn’t return to Saint Louis University because of the heart condition. He ended the school’s 12-year NCAA tournament drought last season with a 26-win 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.

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Majerus was undergoing evaluation and treatment in California for the ongoing heart trouble and the school announced he was on leave in late August.

Majerus had a history of heart problems dating to 1989. He had a stent inserted in August 2011 in Salt Lake City and missed some games in the 2011-12 season after gashing his leg in a collision with players.

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 1989-2004. He was at Marquette from 1983-86, and Ball State from 1987-89.

“Rick left a lasting legacy at the University of Utah, not only for his incredible success and the national prominence he brought to our basketball program, but also for the tremendous impact he made on the young men who were fortunate enough to play on his teams,” Utah athletic director Dr. Chris Hill said in a statement.


“His standard of excellence extended beyond the basketball court and into the academic and personal success of his players,” Hill said. “He will be deeply missed, and we grieve for his family and all of his friends.”

Majerus took 12 teams to the NCAA tournament and four to the NIT, with the 1998 Utah team losing to Kentucky in the NCAA championship game.

In December 2004, USC hired Majerus to replace Henry Bibby, who had been fired four games into the season. But five days later Majerus backed out of the job. Years later Majerus told The Times that he reversed course to care for his mother, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. USC wound up hiring Tim Floyd, and Majerus worked as a TV commentator before returning to the game with Saint Louis.

Majerus, the son of Alyce and Raymond Majerus, was born Feb. 17, 1948, in Sheboygan, Wis. His father, an influential labor leader and an activist with the Democratic Party, moved the family to Milwaukee when Majerus was 7.

Majerus, who was not married and had no children, is survived by two sisters. His father died in 1987 and his mother died last year.

An earlier version of this article omitted mention of Majerus’ survivors and said he had never been married, which he had been.

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