Saint Louis hires Majerus

Saint Louis hires Majerus

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By R.B. FALLSTROM AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Saint Louis hired Rick Majerus on Friday, a move that signals the school's intentions of becoming a Top 50 national program.

Father Lawrence Biondi, the school president, announced the hiring in a statement. Majerus, an analyst for ESPN the last three years, has a career record of 422-147 with 15 postseason appearances.

The school will introduce the 59-year-old Majerus at a news conference Monday morning. Majerus' first appearance is being delayed through the weekend because the school wanted to avoid competing for attention with the NFL draft and a weekend Cardinals-Cubs series.

"I am extremely excited about having a person of Rick Majerus' stature and reputation at the helm of our men's basketball team," Biondi said. "I know that we are now headed to take our men's basketball team to the next level."

The school and Majerus had been negotiating for several days, beginning not long after Brad Soderberg was fired after failing to lead the school to the NCAA tournament in any of his five seasons. Saint Louis hasn't been to the NCAAs since 2000 and had an RPI of 73 at the end of last season.

Majerus coached Utah to the national championship game in 1998 before losing to Kentucky, leading the school to 10 NCAA appearances in 15 seasons. He also has coached at Ball State and Marquette and with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant.

Majerus accepted the Southern California job in December 2004 only to change his mind three days later. He had cited health reasons when he retired as Utah's coach in January 2004.

Last year, he turned down an offer to become an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggetts of the NBA.

Majerus will inherit a team that has four returning starters, losing only senior center Ian Vouyoukas. Forward Tommie Liddell, who will be a junior, led the team with a 15.4-point average.

"Rick and I have gotten a chance to know each other over the past week," Biondi said. "I am very impressed with all that he will bring to our men's basketball program, including his commitment to run a program that we can all be proud of."

Soderberg was fired April 17, several weeks after a 20-13 finish in his final season, and the first 20-win season of his career, failed to generate even an NIT bid. At that time the school said the move was also tied to the school's new $80.5 million arena under construction, which is about $7.5 million short of its fundraising goal.

Saint Louis hasn't had a 20-win season since 1997-98, and finished in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10 Conference last season. Saint Louis was 80-74 under Soderberg and made it to the NIT his first two seasons.

A school spokesman said athletic director Cheryl Levick would be unavailable for comment until Monday.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-04-27-07 1654MDT

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