FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2007, file photo, St. Louis basketball coach Rick Majerus poses for a photo in St. Louis. 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, Dec. 1, 2012. He was 64. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
Updated: January 3, 2013 11:06AM
LOS ANGELES — Rick Majerus, the jovial college basketball coach who led Utah to the 1998 NCAA final and also coached Marquette, 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.
Loyola head coach Porter Moser served under Majerus for four years as an assistant and associate head coach at Saint Louis University.
“I learned so much from him about basketball, but he was also so unbelievable to me and my family,” Moser said. “We’d go on recruiting trips and driving, we’d spend so much time together talking x’s and o’s, but then he’d talk about my family and say ‘Porter, you’re so lucky to have your wife and four kids.’ We’d stop at Cracker Barrel and he’d buy 3 pounds of candy for my kids.
“All the talk in the next 48 hours is going to be about how smart he was about the game, but times that by 40. But he also had a huge heart. He called me after every loss last year [Moser’s first year at Loyola had 23 losses] and said, ‘There are no quick fixes in college basketball. Do it the right way. You’re building something.’’’
Moser said that before Saint Louis’ first NCAA tournament game in March, Majerus called Moser to thank him for having helped recruit that team.
“What I keep thinking is his last collegiate game was against the next team we play — Michigan State [on Saturday]. I just have a really heavy heart,” Moser said.
Moser had seen Majerus this summer and knew Majerus wouldn’t coach again because of his declining health.
Sources indicated Majerus needed a heart transplant.
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.
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 father, Ray, was a prominent figure in the labor movement in Wisconsin. Ray Majerus was head of the Labor Council in the state. Rick was a protege of Marquette coach Al McGuire and coached under him at Marquette and was Marquette’s head coach from 1983-86. He also coached at Ball State and Utah and later at Saint Louis.
Rick Majerus also served for a time on the Milwaukee County Park Board.
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.
He 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.
AP, with Staff Reporter Toni Ginnetti contributing