Memorial at SLU honors Rick Majerus


Memorial at SLU honors Rick Majerus

ST. LOUIS (AP) Kwamain Mitchell recalled the first time Rick Majerus visited his home, trying to recruit him to Saint Louis. Mitchell's mother made a big meal and after a plate Mitchell was full.

Majerus wasn't, took a look at Mitchell and said, ``With that body you can eat three or four more plates.''

Hundreds of people turned out at Chaifetz Pavilion on the SLU campus Friday to honor the Billikens basketball coach who died Dec. 1 of heart failure at the age of 64. He was remembered fondly, with speakers describing him as funny but passionate, exacting but caring, and a coaching genius who got the best out of his players both on and off the court.

Large photographs near the front showed the rotund coach surrounded by young men a foot taller, working the sidelines, seated on a stool patiently teaching attentive players. Dozens of plays drawn up by Majerus, scribbled in marker on white paper, encircled the room, a practice gym where Majerus spent countless hours passing on his basketball knowledge.

Interim coach Jim Crews, whose team is 5-3 so far this season, said Majerus has made a mark that has resonated through the sport.

``His fingerprint is all over college basketball,'' Crews said. ``Everywhere you go, there he is.''

Majerus demanded effort both in the classroom and on the court. Two of his SLU players, Brian Conklin and Kevin Lisch, were academic all-Americans.

His success on the court was impressive, too - a 517-216 record in 25 seasons, just one of which had a losing record. He had 15 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons. He led Utah to the 1998 NCAA finals and took 12 teams to the NCAA tournament, winning at least one game in all but one of those appearances.

Milwaukee-born Majerus played on the freshman team at Marquette and got his coaching start as an assistant under Al McGuire in 1971. He was head coach at Marquette from 1983-86, Ball State from 1987-89, Utah from 1989-2004 and, after a few years working as an ESPN commentator, Saint Louis for the past five seasons.

His biggest success was at Utah: A 323-95 record with 10 conference championships in 13 seasons. Three of his Utah players were first-round NBA draft picks.

At SLU, Majerus turned around a program in a decade-long decline. He brought in players from outside the U.S. and got the most out of overlooked prospects, his teams known for their gritty defense. Majerus was 95-69 and led the Billikens to the third round of the NCAA tourney last season, the team's first appearance in the tournament since 2000.

Majerus had been in ill health on and off for years, battling weight and heart problems. He had a stent inserted in August 2011 and missed some games last season after gashing his leg in a collision with players.

He was undergoing evaluation and treatment in California for ongoing heart trouble and the school announced he was on leave in late August. Then in November came the announcement that he would not return.

Crews said he learned a lot of basketball from Majerus, but he learned a lot more about life.

``Family, friends, food, basketball, players - if that was involved Rick was singing and whistling a happy tune,'' Crews said. ``It was always about people and that was what made Rick so special.''

Majerus' funeral Mass is scheduled for Saturday in his hometown of Milwaukee.

Quick Links

Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

Quick Links

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!