SALT LAKE CITY — University Of Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill announced plans Monday to honor former men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus.
“Our fans were proud of his team. I mean, Rick was tough on his guys, but, you know, the guys made it through it and they seem to be pretty good folks here,” Hill said.
Hill talked about adding Majerus to the Crimson Club Hall of Fame and lobbying to have him inducted into the national coaches hall of fame. There are also plans to retire the famous Majerus sweater.
Majerus, who died Saturday, made the University of Utah a national power in basketball during his 15-year tenure died Saturday. He was known for his intense, often irreverent coaching style.
“It’s really beyond words, what he did basketball-wise, so I think a guy would be chasing his tail around if he was trying to keep up with Rick Majerus,” said Larry Krystkowiak, the Utes’ current head coach.
Majerus knew how to get into his players’ heads and push their buttons. They say they were often afraid of him as a coach; he would call them names, make them relive their mistakes in the film room and loved to make them run laps. Many of the players couldn’t handle it and left the team before their four years were up.
“He sometime would get personal. He would call you names you had never been called before in your life, but what he was trying to do is make you be the best player that you could be,” said Josh Grant, Utah forward from 1988-1992. “Either you learned how to deal with that or you left. And a lot of people did leave.”
Majerus came to the University of Utah in 1989. The first year at the U, he survived a heart attack and bypass surgery. The second year, he took the Runnin’ Utes to a 30-4 season and catapulted them onto the national stage.
“He was just so good with the X’s and O’s of the game. He understood it like nobody’s business,” Jimmy Soto, Utah point guard from 1989-1993, said.
His coaching extended beyond the basketball court; his players learned lessons on being better players and better men. Grant says he taught them about being on time and eating right, something he never followed himself.
“He would make you run if you were late. I think if you took all the players today we are all very timely, because if you were late the whole team was running the next morning. If you missed weights or something like that boy there was hell to pay,” Grant said. “He taught us a lot. I didn’t always like him. Sometimes I hated him, but he taught me a lot of things about life and that’s what I appreciated.”
Majerus led Utah to a 323-95 record and multiple trips to the NCAA tournament, including the 1998 national championship game. He died Saturday of heart failure at the age of 64. Grant and Soto say he left too soon, but they were lucky to have him around a
The University of Utah men’s basketball team will honor Majerus Wednesday at their home game.