A big thanks to Jeff Osterman for passing along a great article on Rick Majerus as written by one of his assistant coaches at St. Louis, Paul Biancardi. It's a great article and you can read it all here. But here are some the excerpts that struck a chord with me:
During the season on our "days off," you would arrive in the office in the morning, then we would meet at noon for lunch on The Hill and talk about our team, recruiting, scheduling, academics and in between he would have to take some calls. Before you know it is was 5 o'clock and he would say, "Let's go have dinner and talk ball."
As we prepared for that first season, he had us come to Milwaukee, near where he grew up, for staff meetings. We went to the playground he grew up on and walked through all of our offensive and defensive drills and concepts outside on the cement, with cracks and weeds popping out of the ground. It was so pure. It was so Rick.
As a coach, he was an extraordinary teacher of the game and a master of detail. He would always cite people he learned from or coached with, such as the great Al McGuire, Don Nelson, George Karl, Del Harris, Don Donoher and Doc Rivers, whom he coached at Marquette. He had a philosophy and a plan for skill development and every phase of the game. His preparation for opponents was overwhelmed with detail.
The first time I ever scouted a game for him, I thought I had just taken a final exam. He was one of the best at preparing his teams for a game. Like all great coaches, his favorite place to be was practice or watching film. In the film room, he could pick out multiple breakdowns or good plays in just one possession.
His teams and players always improved under his tutelage. His practices were special because there was never any slippage from him. Whether it was the first practice of the year or the last, he was always well-prepared and detailed. He beat teams that were more talented because his teams were better prepared -- and when he had equal or better talent, he rarely if ever beat himself.
There are many reasons he will go down as one of the greatest coaches of all time in my book. His knowledge of the game, his thirst to learn more and his ability to translate that knowledge to his teams was remarkable. Games are won and lost in practice and coach Majerus conducted an incredibly detailed practice with purpose.
But as detailed and demanding as he was on the court with his players, he was equally concerned about their academic effort and progress. He would spend hours lecturing them about the importance and value of their education and how hard all of their parents sacrificed for them over the years. Rick would get off on life-lesson discussions that were deep and personal. One of his main points and phrases to all of his players was, "I don't expect an A, but I do expect an A effort in the classroom, and in your conduct and character toward others."