Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Majerus Is Sidelined; Health Problems Force St. Louis U. Men's Basketball Coach to Miss Coming Season

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Majerus Is Sidelined; Health Problems Force St. Louis U. Men's Basketball Coach to Miss Coming Season

Article excerpt

Rick Majerus, who rebuilt the St. Louis University basketball program and last season guided the team to its first NCAA berth since 2000, will miss the coming season because of health problems.

The school said Majerus was in a California hospital for tests for an ongoing heart condition. Majerus has a history of heart trouble, having undergone seven heart bypasses, "one for each food group" he has joked in the past. In the summer of 2011, he had a stent installed in his heart, and the season that followed may have been his most energetic yet, though he often ran practices while seated on a stool.

Assistant coach Jim Crews, formerly the head coach at Army and Evansville, will serve as interim head coach.

"We're just so concerned for coach and his health," Crews said. "He's been fighting it. He's going to battle it. I don't know a lot of things about it, but the No. 1 priority is his health. One-A is having the players going though some adversity and helping them through that."

In announcing the move, the school stressed that Crews was the interim head coach, going so far as to underline the word in two separate places in the release announcing the change and saying that no decision had been made on who would coach the 2013-14 season. Majerus, however, would be 65 by the start of the 2013 season and his contract runs out after this season, further complicating any return.

"It's been recent," SLU athletics director Chris May said of Majerus' condition. "First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Rick and we hope he gets better. Then, how do we put our best foot forward with the student-athletes and give them every opportunity to succeed."

The school said that although it had spoken with Majerus' doctors, it could say no more about his condition. Not surprisingly, the mail box on Majerus' cellphone was full on Friday afternoon.

By missing this season, Majerus will miss what looks to be the sweetest fruits of his labors. This season's team looks to be even better than last year's squad, which went 26-8 and reached the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The team was ranked in the top 25 early in the season, the first time that had happened since 1994, and was just on the outside at the end of the season. SLU could well start the 2012-13 season - its first game is Nov. 9 - in the top 25 and could also be the favorite in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

May met with the players who were already on campus in the basketball locker room on Friday afternoon to give them the news.

"It's not easy," he said. "They're very emotional kids. I thought they took it with great maturity. They banded together and talked about looking out for each other, caring for each other. It was a motivating session. They talked about being a team. That was a positive."

Crews said, "They were excellent. There was a lot of information. They're absorbing things. Their emotions are no different from the staff: sad, upset, confused, those type of things. We're going to deal the truth with them and just take it one step at a time."

"As if we needed motivation," tweeted junior forward Dwayne Evans.

"Band of brothers gotta stick together," tweeted senior forward Cody Ellis.

Last season was the kind SLU was looking for when it hired Majerus - regarded as one of the best basketball minds in the game - on April 30, 2007. The program had seen only occasional successes under previous coaches, and school president the Rev. Lawrence Biondi was looking to make a splash as the team prepared to move into its new on-campus facility, Chaifetz Arena. …

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