Saying goodbye to an old friend, Rick Majerus
December 1, 2012, 11:24 pm
When I learned of the death of my very good friend, Rick Majerus, on Saturday night, I wasn’t stunned but deeply saddened. I knew that Rick was in very poor health and was never going to coach again, but I wasn’t prepared for the sadness that I feel at the loss of a friend who has had a great influence on my life.
I have known Rick since we coached against each other in 1982, when he was an assistant at Marquette and I was a young assistant at Northern Illinois. I remember getting to know him well after he was named Marquette’s head coach in 1983, and I would see him on the recruiting trail looking at players in and around the Chicago area.
However, we became very close when he moved on to Ball State and then the University of Utah, when he became a subscriber to my scouting service that I spent 10 years publishing after leaving coaching. Rick would call often about players, looking for a sleeper that Big Ten schools had missed on, and always asked about the toughness of a particular player.
“Is he tough enough to play for me? What kind of a kid is he?” Those would always be the first questions he would ask, saving questions on the player’s basketball skills for later in our conversation.
First, he always asked about me and my family and how my son Brett was doing.
When I remarried in 2004, I sent Rick an invitation sure that he wouldn’t attend. But he flew from Maui to be at the ceremony and then spent several hours at the reception talking basketball and sports with some of the other guests. Rick took a genuine interest in my family, including my son and stepsons who he always asked me about, even offering my oldest stepson Nick a chance to attend his camps or to walk on and play for him at St. Louis University.
A few years ago Rick called me on a summer afternoon and asked me how my career was going, and was I making progress in getting to call college basketball games as an analyst on TV. When I asked him, "Why?" he replied, “I am going to the Milwaukee Brewers game tonight with a TV executive who I am very good friends with. When you get done with your radio show, drive to Milwaukee and have dinner with us. I want him to meet you and I want to tell him he needs to hire you to do games for him.”
That was Rick in a nutshell. Thinking of how he could help someone else. Always calling and inviting me to games, to dinner or agreeing to come on my radio show. He was an amazing friend who would never say no and just wanted to have fun together and talk ball as he called it. We would X and O or just talk basketball and about life.
He asked me to have him on my radio show a couple of seasons back, but he wanted to make sure that it would be a lengthy interview. "Put me on for an entire hour, Kap. I want to talk with you," he said. When I told him that I couldn't devote a full hour to St. Louis University basketball on a Chicago radio station, he laughed and said, "We can talk about stem cell research and abortion rights and the war, too. I just went to a Hillary Clinton rally and I have a lot to say about things other than basketball."
We booked the interview and he spent most of the hour talking about social issues, the importance of family and education and a few minutes on how much he loved coaching at St. Louis University. That was the Rick Majerus I knew. He was well-read, he was a deep thinker and he was as loyal a friend as you could possibly hope to have.
He was an amazing man and someone that I will never forget. Rick, I will miss you, my friend. I hope you are sitting down to a wonderful meal and talking “ball” with some of the all-time greats who are in heaven with you. I will always cherish our friendship and your influence on my life. Rest in peace.