I would imagine that the ultimate compliment one can give a head basketball coach is to say that your players were better off for having you lead them.
Better players on the court. Better students in the classroom. Better human beings in all.
As much as anyone who has dedicated their life to teaching young men through the lens of an orange sphere, Rick Majerus deserves such a high compliment.
The former St. Louis University Billikens basketball coach died Saturday at the age of 64.
Majerus had no biological children, yet he is a father figure to hundreds of men. Majerus was married only briefly, yet fans at the universities of Marquette, Ball State, Utah and St. Louis were left widowed upon his passing.
Majerus' life was basketball. It will be difficult to imagine the game without him.
Majerus has said many times that he never enjoyed coaching a game. Games are all about wins and losses, scoring points and condensing your worth to the outcome on a scoreboard.
Majerus loved coaching practice. Practices offer players the chance for introspection. Practices offer players the chance to challenge themselves in a way that they've never allowed before.
At SLU, Majerus took over an otherwise dormant basketball program, and within a couple recruiting classes, he had completely revitalized the school, fan base and city. Fans in Milwaukee, Muncie (Ind.) and Salt Lake City can say the same thing.
Without Majerus, there is no Chaifetz Arena. Without Majerus, there is no on-campus state-of-the-art practice and athletic facility.
Without Majerus, SLU does not make international recruiting inroads in Greece, Australia and New Zealand.
Before Majerus, SLU's basketball history could have been condensed into four words: Ed Macauley, Larry Hughes.
Before Majerus, SLU's basketball history was composed of the two local St. Louis products who brought success to the hometown team while making it all the way to the NBA.
The 50 years at SLU between Macauley and Hughes were virtually empty. Before Majerus, SLU basketball was a story that could otherwise be titled “The Misadventures of Acceptable Mediocrity.”
Majerus made his players strive for more than simple mediocrity. For that, everyone who called Majerus "Coach" was better off for having him as their leader.