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Andre Miller and others remember Coach Majerus

Andre Miller and others remember Coach Majerus

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Whether you talk to former players, coaches, or media members, everyone seems to have a Rick Majerus story. I've heard boatloads over the years and I've had just about every conceivable reaction ranging from shock, disgust, laughter and respect.

There's no denying that Majerus was one of the most influential basketball figures in Utah. In the sports department we have a basketball Mount Rushmore of Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Rick Majerus.

Rick would use any and all forms of motivation. Some were appropriate, some were not. Jeff Johnsen recounted a memory, edited for television, during his freshman year. Johnsen was highly recruited out of Murray high school, and when he began playing with the Utes, he was playing with four future NBA players, Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller, Michael Doleac and Hanno Mottola. If he took a bad shot, the overly honest Majerus pointed out to Johnsen that of the five guys on the court he was the only one that was not going to play in the NBA.

It was more about my character and (Rick) guaranteed that I'd get a college education and I would graduate.

–Andre Miller

That 1996-97 team was one of the most talented college basketball teams I've ever seen. They lost to Kentucky (of course) in the Elite 8.

Rick's true genius showed the next year, Van Horn was drafted #2 overall into the NBA by the Sixers, but the Utes went on the greatest run in modern history. The Utes beat #1 seeds Arizona and North Carolina, behind Andre Miller and Michael Doleac, before falling to Kentucky in the championship game.

Nuggets head coach George Karl was greatly influenced by Majerus, "There's a lot of Rick Majerus in how I coach, there's a lot of Rick Majerus in how I act as a person. There's a lot of Rick Majerus as a friend that I'll never forget."

Rick raised Andre Miller into one of the most successful college and NBA players the state has ever produced. "I didn't really get recruited out of high school. My first scholarship offer was from Utah and it was plain and simple. It wasn't about my talent. It was more about my character and (Rick) guaranteed that I'd get a college education and I would graduate." said Miller, "As long as I did what I was supposed to do, everything would take care of itself, so I just tried to do the right things."

Miller described Majerus as upfront and blunt, "Some guys can't handle it. I was a guy that needed that structure. I wasn't a guy who was going to go to college for one year and play in the NBA. I needed structure and my education. He brought all those things to the table. I got my degree and all the basketball stuff took care of itself. He was blunt about everything and that's one thing I appreciated."

It wasn't easy to be coached by Majerus. Former Ute forward Josh Grant said that he was even harder on the stars.

The difficulty of playing under such a demanding coach was not easy, but his players respected his knowledge of the game.

"I'm a little bit biased because I was around him for five years," said Miller, "but I feel he's probably one of the more underrated teachers of the game. When you think about him changing guys that can't even dribble or put the ball in the basket, some of those guys went pro. Any person that can teach and have that much effect on a person's life and education, he brought everything to the table and he did a lot for a lot of people."

Majerus' impact on the basketball world is significant, but his succumbing to his health problems was not a surprise.

"It was something that we knew was going to eventually come with his health and his heart." said Miller.

Karl had similar concerns regarding Majerus' health, "Obesity is becoming a major problem in our country and it was a major problem for him. So much of our game and so much of our relationship was over food. He loved to eat and he loved to talk basketball. I think he loved basketball more than he loved to eat, but it was close."

"There were some good memories and bad memories." said Miller, "When you grow up and mature, you appreciate it when you get older. That's one thing, I appreciated it early. He yelled a lot. He got on me a lot. I took that as he cared about me being a successful person in life.

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Dave Noriega


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