College basketball lost one of the good ones today. Following a well-documented struggle with his health, Rick Majerus passed away today at the age of 64. Majerus was one of those rare combinations as a coach: the kind that has a brilliant understanding of the game– labeled by some as a masterful tactician, but also is well-liked across the board by nearly everyone he has come in contact with. Throw in to the mix a sharp sense of humor and ability to even poke fun at himself at times, and you have a man who will be genuinely missed on this earth, especially in college basketball circles. Those who knew him well loved him for his magnetic personality and deep passion for the game of basketball.
Majerus had a few notable coaching stops in his storied career, including Marquette (his alma mater), Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis. Kentucky fans feel a connection to Majerus in large part due to the fact that his Utah team was Kentucky’s opponent in the 1998 national championship game. Beyond that moment in time, Majerus generally spoke highly of Kentucky whenever given the opportunity. A basketball junkie, Majerus appreciated the rich history and tradition wrapped around Kentucky.
Rick Majerus was never one to pass up an opportunity to provide a gem of a quote. Majerus had some of the greatest quotes, many of which have been circulating in remembrance of his life. Below are a few of his best. Rest in peace, Rick Majerus. Click here to read a whole list of great Majerus quotes.
“Never marry a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman will leave you. An ugly woman will leave you, too, but so what?”
About his exercise routine…
“I like to bike. I could beat Lance Armstrong, only because he couldn’t pass me if he was behind me.”
On coaching college vs. the NBA…
“I like practice, I love teaching, I love to see a kid get a degree and an education. I enjoy the college campus. I love the theater in our campus. I like the campus life. There’s a travel club on our campus, and I’ll go to those lectures. In an NBA player’s life, how can you make a difference? I mean, you might be able to make a little bit of a difference, but I think I’ve impacted all my players more than any pro coach they’ve ever played for — both from a basketball standpoint, but more importantly, from a lifestyle standpoint. (Keith) Van Horn just asked me to be the godfather for his baby. It was fun to sit through Andre (Miller’s) graduation, to see his mom smile. It was fun to see Hanno (Mottola) come from Europe and realize his dream. It was fun to see Drew Hansen get in Stanford Law School. The other night, one of my players had a really bad family problem and I really did enjoy offering a perspective on it and seeing if I could help him out. A lot of people that are very wealthy throw money at their problems, but it’s fun to help them work through it. I love the fans and the college students. I like the alumni association deal. I like the rah-rah and all that. I like the band rather than that fabricated music. I like the fact that we have students that are cheerleaders that really care, as opposed to a dancing girl team of hired mercenaries.”
And now on to the UK news of the day…
— The longest active home winning streak in the country came to a halt this afternoon as John Calipari suffered his first loss in Rupp Arena as the Kentucky basketball coach. Kentucky fell to Baylor 64-55. Winning fifty five straight games without stumbling, with teams that are always stocked with young and inexperienced players, is no small feat and should be commended. Even as much as the Brandon Knight-led 2011 team struggled until the post-season, they were able to keep a perfect bill at home. All streaks must come to an end, but the overall feeling after the game was less about the ending of the streak and more about the direction of this Kentucky basketball team for the remainder of the season. Kentucky is now on a rare 2-game losing streak, sporting a less than attractive 4-3 record. Outside of the Maryland game, Kentucky’s wins have been over schools they have been heavy favorites against. The 3 “tough” games on the schedule so far have all resulted in losses.
— With the 2nd loss in a row to a team currently outside of the Top 25, one question becomes whether or not Kentucky will fall completely from the national rankings/polls. If Kentucky falls into the latter part of the Top 25, or out completely, they will likely have to wait until the Louisville road game on December 29th to really prove themselves on the big stage again.
— Unlike Thursday’s disappointing loss to Notre Dame, in which Kentucky appeared to lack a bit of effort and intensity, the young Wildcats came out with a higher level of intensity to start the game. Also unlike the Notre Dame game, when Kentucky’s offense looked completely inept and stagnant at times– Kentucky was able to create plenty of good scoring opportunities against Baylor this afternoon. Although the offense still struggled at times, especially against Baylor’s zone, the chances around the basket were there for the taking. In a game that featured more missed lay-ups and 2-5 footers than a women’s basketball game (you know it’s true), Kentucky simply left too many easy baskets on the table. Nerlens Noel’s inability to convert on a number of attempts in which he got himself in great position, perhaps stood out the most. Noel finished 3-14 from the field and would probably like some of those misses back.
— Ohh, Archie Goodwin. What to make of Archie Goodwin? Let me start off by saying that at times today I was extremely impressed and pleased with Goodwin’s ability to break down the zone with his dribble AND his willingness to give up the ball on his way to the rim. He still leads the team in “PASSSSS THE BALLLLLL” moments, but he was unselfish on a number of drives that used to almost always end in a “back-to-the-basket-throw-the-ball-in-the-air-as-I-fall-to-the-ground-what-that-wasn’t-a-foul?” The biggest benefactor of his improved decision making on some of those drives was Willie Cauley-Stein. Cauley-Stein got himself in good position for a few alley-oop passes that ended in dunks. Cauley-Stein also had one flush in which he absolutely throttled the rim on a Julius Mays miss. Dun-na-na, Dun-na-na (Sports Center jingle, sort of…)
— Where was Willie’s headband, by the way? I missed it.
— The point guard situation still remains a question mark, as it has all season long. I do think that it was a telling sign that Ryan Harrow was in the game during the final minutes. At some point, is Calipari going to just hand the position to Harrow and say, “whatever we are going to be this year, it’s going to be with you as our PG?” I’m not sure if or when that moment will come, but Harrow had a few nice plays in the second half with the ball in his hands.
— In the end, this Kentucky team still has a huge number of question marks. It’s early though. John Calipari will earn his paycheck this season though. At times once again today, he looked visibly perplexed at some of the things his young team was doing on the court. His team is not (at least yet) excellent on defense, which is rare and has been something all of his 3 Kentucky teams so far could count on and fall back on when other things weren’t clicking. Whenever Kentucky did have success scoring, they weren’t able to sustain a run because they couldn’t put together multiple stops in a row on the defensive end. With slower guys like Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays, as well as a seemingly still lost Ryan Harrow on defense– it’s a legitimate concern about just how high the ceiling is for the potential defensively of this team.
— Again, John Calipari will face his toughest challenge yet as a coach with this puzzle of a Kentucky team. Maybe it’s a sign that this team just has a distinctly different make up, or maybe it’s a testament to how well his other teams have been able to gel so quickly in similar circumstances. Just because at times he has made it look easy, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a tremendous coaching job.
— Willie Cauley-Stein had a few interesting tidbits following the game in talking about comparing this year’s team to last year’s team: “We came in thinking we were that team. And we’re not that team. We have a long way to go to establish our identity.”
— Baylor freshmen Isaiah Austin enjoyed the environment and the opportunity to play in Rupp Arena. “This is the most exciting game I’ve ever played in.”
— Kentucky will look to bounce back (How many of you have that on your living room table? How many of you have actually read it cover to cover? 2 points for each “yes” answer) with a 4-game home stand before their biggest challenge of the season on the road against Louisville.
— On the football side of things, tomorrow marks another huge day in the young Mark Stoops era. Kentucky fans will have the chance to welcome the new coach to the Bluegrass tomorrow afternoon. Andrew Cassady outlined the Big Blue Nation’s options earlier:
Choice A- 12:45 p.m RJ Corman Airplane Hanger, Nicholasville
Go see Coach as he lands in Lexington for the first time at the RJ Corman Airplane hanger in Nicholasville. Go here and you can say you were there when it all began and the Mark Stoops era in Lexington really began.
Choice B- 2:45 p.m Nutter Field House
The second chance to see the new coach will be just before the 3 o’ clock press conference outside of the Nutter field house now displaying the Coach’s face. From there you can wander over to Commonwealth where they will be playing the conference on the video boards.
— Stoops will be arriving fresh off of the ACC conference championship with his former employer, Florida State. Florida State was impressive on the defensive end in the win, coming up with a huge interception in the final minutes to secure the win. I actually had the Florida State game on tonight just to catch a glimpse of Stoops in action. In a cool moment, once again showcasing just how beloved Stoops was to the Florida State players/program, Stoops was doused with Gatorade at the conclusion of the game.
— Kentucky football has already enjoyed a recent buzz around the program for the first time in years. During the coaching search many people talked about the necessity for the new coach to “win the press conference.” At the time, considering some of the less exciting names floating around, the press conference would have been a way to “convince” the Big Blue Nation to get excited about the hire and the state of the football program in general. The Stoops hire has already generated excitement and I believe the first 24 hours after his hire and every piece of news that filtered out during the time period, has already won over the masses. I suspect the press conference tomorrow will only deepen the excitement and positive vibe already surrounding the hire.
— In really the only “new news” of the day for UK football, we found out that Mark Stoops will not be coaching Florida State in their bowl game (likely against Louisville, unless something changes in the next 2 minutes). The news is exciting because it signals Stoops’ 100% commitment in moving forward in Lexington with Kentucky. His focus and tireless work ethic will be squarely on Kentucky and securing a bright future with the 2013 recruiting class.
— A quick change of pace, for those interested in our rival’s woes. The rumor mill is starting to really heat up with Charlie Strong and his potential move to the SEC next season. Tennessee has apparently already interviewed Strong, and Auburn has shown strong interest as well. Tennessee fans will likely all still tell you that Jon Gruden is a done deal, and Jesus himself will be his defensive coordinator, with Peyton Manning coordinating the offense…but don’t be surprised if you start to hear Strong’s name coming up with more sincerity when it comes to the Vols’ job opening.
— Congratulations to the UK volleyball team for a big win over Ohio State tonight in Memorial Coliseum. The victorious Wildcats will now move on to the Sweet 16, where #1 ranked Penn State will be waiting.
— I’ll leave you with a famous Rick Majerus moment that has been re-circulating throughout social media following today’s news.