Considered one of the top coaches in America, Rick Majerus has entrenched the University of Utah in college basketball's power structure. The Utes' steady rise in national prominence since Majerus' arrival on The Hill at the start of the 1989-90 season was crystallized by a trip to the 1998 NCAA Final Four, where Utah finished as the national runner-up. Since then, the Utes have continued an impressive run, winning eight conference championships in the last nine years and making nine straight postseason appearances. Utah's 10 regular-season conference championships in the last 13 seasons is the most of any NCAA Division I program.
Majerus' career winning percentage of .741 ranks fourth-highest among active NCAA Division I coaches and 17th all-time. Among active coaches, only Roy Williams (Kansas), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Lute Olsen (Arizona) have better winning percentages. With a 69-56 win at Wyoming on Feb. 10, 2003, Majerus became the 16th-fastest coach to reach 400 wins, taking 538 games. He owns a 407-142 carer record and is one of just 12 coaches all-time to win 400 games in 19 seasons or less.
Majerus, who has never had a losing season, has averaged 21 wins a year over the course of his 19-year career. He has won 20 games 13 times and 30 games twice. Majerus has also guided 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament and four others to the NIT.
A successful coach since the beginning, Majerus' best years have come with the Runnin' Utes. In the 95-year history of Utah basketball-the ninth-winningest program in the NCAA (.659) entering the 2003-04 season-the Utes have never enjoyed a 14-year stretch like the Majerus era. Despite the fact that he coached just six games his first season due to heart surgery and one game in 2000-01 before taking a personal leave of absence, Majerus' Utah teams have averaged 22 wins a year. Take away his two shortened seasons, and the Utes have won 20 games all but once, averaging 25 wins in 12 full seasons under Majerus.
While leading the Utes to unprecedented success, Majerus has become one of just three coaches in school history to win 300 games. He is 307-89 with a .775 winning percentage during his tenure. Bringing stability to the Utah program, Majerus is one of only 11 coaches who have been at their current institution 14 years or longer among the top 10 conferences in the nation.
Over a five-year stretch from 1994-99 to close out the decade of the '90s, the U. won at least 27 games each year, including a school-record 30 victories in 1997-98. Only 13 times has an NCAA Division I program won at least 25 games in five consecutive seasons. In the last nine years, the Utes have claimed eight regular-seasons league titles, including five consecutive Western Athletic Conference championships outright (divisional titles in 1997, '98 and '99) and a share of three Mountain West Conference titles (2000, '01, '03). Majerus guided the Utes to six straight NCAA Tournaments from 1995-2000 and has taken them back to the "Big Dance" in both '02 and '03.
Utah has been prominent in the national polls during the Majerus era. The Utes were ranked in the final USA Today/ESPN Poll five consecutive years from 1995-99, including Top 10 finishes in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls three years running from '97-99. Utah has been ranked in both major polls at various times three of the last four seasons.
What Majerus' teams have accomplished since the beginning of his tenure 14 years ago is astounding. Consider:
Majerus' feats have earned him widespread recognition. While at Utah, he has won five National Coach of the Year awards: Basketball Times (1991), UPI (1991), Playboy (1992, '98) and John Wooden (1998). Majerus is also a seven-time District Coach of the Year (1991, '93, '95, '96, '97, '98, '99) by the NABC and/or USBWA, a Region Coach of the Year by Basketball Times (2003), and a five-time conference Coach of the Year (1991, '93, '95, '97, '99). He has the rare distinction of being enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in both Utah (2000) and Wisconsin (2001), and was named the Utah Sports Person of the Year in both 1991 and '97.
A Success Story at Utah
In April of 1989, when Majerus became the 12th head coach in the history of Utah basketball, the headline of the Salt Lake Tribune announced, "(Utah Athletic Director Chris) Hill Brings Big, Funny Man to Ute Post." Since his arrival, Majerus has definitely kept Ute fans laughing at his endless one liners, while his status as the "Big Man" in the state has grown in relation to his win total.
Majerus' long-term plans to place Utah among the elite in college basketball were slowed somewhat in his first season at the U. After guiding the Utes to a 4-2 start, Majerus was sidelined for the rest of the 1989-90 season following heart bypass surgery in early December.
A trimmer, healthier Majerus was back on the sidelines for his first full season in 1990-91. With a team picked to finish seventh in the WAC pre-season polls, Majerus pulled off one of the best coaching jobs in the country. The Utes won the WAC title with a 15-1 mark, setting the league record for wins. Utah also broke the school record for wins with a 30-4 mark, won what was then a school-record 17 consecutive games, earned a Top 10 national ranking and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
With a team hampered by injuries throughout most of the season, including the loss of 1990-91 WAC Player of the Year Josh Grant, Majerus still managed to lead the '91-92 Utes to a 24-11 record and a trip to the NIT Final Four, where they finished third. The 1992-93 team claimed a share of the WAC championship-its second in three seasons-with a 15-3 mark. Utah went 24-7 overall, spending half of the season in the national polls and climbing as high as No. 9. Utah was also invited to its second NCAA Tournament in three years, advancing to the second round. Grant was named the WAC Player of the Year for a second time.
After youthfulness and another bout with injuries contributed to a 14-14 campaign in 1993-94, the Utes were back to their winning ways in '94-95. From a season-opening upset of ninth-ranked Indiana to Utah's No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Majerus worked his magic with a group of virtual college newcomers. His regular nine-man rotation featured just two upperclassmen; three freshmen played off the bench. Utah had one of the five winningest seasons in school history with a 28-6 record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Utes lost to eventual Final Four participant Mississippi State. The Utes also won the first of five consecutive WAC regular season titles with a 15-3 mark.
Majerus' second NCAA Sweet 16 team was in 1995-96, when the Utes went 27-7. Utah also won the WAC with a 15-3 record. Led by two-time All-American and three-time WAC Player of the Year Keith Van Horn in his final season, the Utes went one step further in the NCAA Tournament in '96-97 by earning a No. 2 seed in the West Region and making it to the Elite Eight. Crowned champions of the WAC Mountain Division with a 15-1 record, the Utes were mainstays in the Top 10 all season and went into the NCAAs with a best-ever No. 2 ranking after winning the WAC Tournament. The Utes finished with a 29-4 record and the second-most wins in school history. Van Horn was a consensus first team All-American, after earning second team honors as a junior.
With the loss of Van Horn, who finished his career as the all-time leading scorer in school history, Majerus turned in arguably his best coaching job to date in 1997-98. Utah reeled off 18 consecutive wins to open the season, cruised to its second straight WAC Mountain Division title with a 12-2 record and equaled the most wins in school history by finishing 30-4.
Seeded third in the West Region entering the NCAA Tournament, the Utes shocked top-seeded Arizona, 76-51, in the regional final to advance to the school's first Final Four in 22 years. Utah went on to beat top-ranked North Carolina, 65-59, in the national semifinals at the Alamodome in San Antonio to advance to its first NCAA championship game since 1944. Utah led Kentucky with five minutes to play in the national final until the Wildcats' depth allowed them to pull away for a 78-69 victory. Michael Doleac and Andre Miller were named third team All-Americans.
After winning just five of their first nine games, the Utes reeled off a school-record 23 consecutive wins to finish 28-5 in 1998-99. In the process, Utah won the WAC Pacific Division title with a 14-0 record and captured the league tournament championship, becoming the first team in WAC history to post a perfect record against conference foes. Utah earned a No. 2 seed-equaling its best ever-in the NCAA Midwest Region and advanced to the second round. Miller, who concluded his career at the U. ranked second in assists and first in steals, was honored as the Basketball News National Player of the Year, a consensus first team All-American and the WAC Pacific Division Player of the Year.
Before the start of the 1999-2000 season, Majerus bid farewell to his third consecutive NBA Draft lottery pick in Miller. Despite losing his floor general, Majerus pushed his string of 20-win seasons to six. The Utes finished 23-9, tied for the inaugural Mountain West Conference regular-season championship with a 10-4 record and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Alex Jensen was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.
In 2000-01, Majerus coached the Utes to an opening night win over Idaho State before taking a personal leave of absence for the rest of the season. Majerus utilized the time away to properly recover from a late-September knee surgery and an early-January heart procedure, as well as tend to his mother, who was battling cancer.
Majerus returned to the bench in 2001-02 to guide the Utes to their seventh consecutive 20-win season and their seventh straight NCAA appearance under his direction. Utah went 21-9 overall, placed second in the Mountain West with a 10-4 record and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Britton Johnsen was named the conference player of the year.
In 2003-04, Majerus' final season at Utah, he directed a team with just four returning lettermen to a 25-8 record and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the seventh time in his tenure The Utes had a 25-win season. Utah also recorded its best league record (11-3) in four years in the Mountain West Conference and led the way with four all-conference honorees.
A Growing Legacy
Success has followed Majerus through every step of his coaching career. In 32 years in the profession as a head coach and an assistant coach, Majerus has been a part of 734 victories, 27 postseason appearances, an NIT Final Four, three NCAA Final Fours and one national championship.
A highly regarded teacher of the game, Majerus' coaching style stresses the fundamentals and helps players reach their full potential. To find evidence of this, one needs to look no further than the list of recent NBA Draft choices. During a three-year stretch from 1997-99, Utah and Duke were the only college programs to produce three NBA lottery picks. Van Horn, who is in his seventh year in the league, was taken as the second overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by Philadelphia. Doleac was selected 12th by the Orlando Magic in 1998 and Miller eighth by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999. Hanno Möttölä, who was taken in the second round by the Atlanta Hawks in 2000, became the first Finnish player in the history of the NBA.
Majerus' teams at Utah have been linked by two predominant threads: outstanding half-court defense and a finely-tuned offense. In the last 14 years, Utah has ranked in the top 30 of the NCAA 11 times in scoring defense, nine times in rebound margin, eight times in field goal percentage defense, eight times in scoring margin and seven times in field goal percentage.
But, for everything Utah's student-athletes have achieved on the court, they have been equally successful in the classroom. In Majerus' program, academics are prioritized first, basketball second. That philosophy has led to 41 players making the honor roll (3.00 GPA or better) a combined 170 times during Majerus' tenure. Utah leads all Division I programs with four Academic All-Americans in the last six years. Doleac (first team) and Drew Hansen (third team) were selected in 1997-98, making Utah the first Final Four team with two Academic All-Americans in its starting lineup. Möttölä earned second team Academic All-America honors in 1998-99 before being named to the third team in 1999-2000. Hansen also won the 1997 Playboy Magazine Anson Mount Scholar-Athlete Award for basketball, was a Rhodes Scholar candidate, an NCAA Post Graduate Scholarship winner and a finalist for the Walter Byers Award, the highest academic award given by the NCAA. Majerus has coached three Rhodes Scholar candidates over the course of his career, including Marc Marotta at Marquette and Rick Hall at Ball State, in addition to Hansen.
A Life of Roundball
Rick was born to Raymond and Alyce Majerus on Feb. 17, 1948 in Sheboygan, Wis. Seven years later the family moved 50 miles south to Milwaukee, where Rick grew up in a working-class neighborhood as the son of a union rep and a housewife. He graduated from Marquette University High School in 1967.
Majerus stayed in his hometown to attend Marquette University, and earned a spot on the Warriors (now Golden Eagles) freshman team as a walk-on in 1967-68. After not making Al McGuire's varsity squad as sophomore, Majerus found his niche as a coach. While still attending Marquette, Majerus got his start in the profession as an assistant coach at St. Sebastian Junior High School and eventually made his way across town to his former high school. In an effort to learn as much about the game as he possibly could, Majerus would often sneak into Milwaukee Bucks practices and games.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in history in 1970, Majerus was hired by McGuire as a full-time assistant at Marquette in 1971. Majerus soaked up everything he could from his mentor before McGuire stepped down following Marquette's national championship season in 1976-77. Long-time McGuire assistant Hank Raymonds then took over as head coach, with Majerus serving as his right-hand man for six more seasons. In 12 years as an assistant, Majerus helped guide Marquette to a 277-76 record (.785), ten 20-win seasons, 11 NCAA Tournament appearances and trips to the NCAA Final Four in 1974 and '77.
Majerus succeeded Raymonds as Marquette's head coach from 1983-86. In three seasons, his teams went 56-35 (.615) and were invited to the NIT each season. Majerus directed the Warriors to a 17-13 record in his first campaign, followed by a 20-11 mark in 1984-85 and a 19-11 record in 1985-86.
Majerus left Marquette to become an assistant coach with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks in 1986-87. Under the guidance of head coach Don Nelson, assistant Del Harris and Majerus, the Bucks went 50-32 and advanced to the NBA playoffs.
After one season with the Bucks, Majerus moved on to become the head coach at Ball State, where he quickly became known as a hot coaching commodity. Majerus logged a 43-17 record in two seasons with the Cardinals. He earned National Coach of the Year honors from The Hoop Scoop after leading Ball State to a 29-3 record, the Mid-American Conference championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his final season.
Majerus has also been an active coach on the International level. In 1997, Majerus directed the USA Basketball Men's 22 and Under Team that competed in the World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. He was an assistant coach under Nelson on "Dream Team II," which won the gold medal at the 1994 Men's World Basketball Championships in Toronto. Majerus worked with some of the top players in the NBA while coaching that team, including Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning. Majerus also spent part of the summer of '93 as an assistant coach for Team USA, a group of top collegians that toured Europe.
Majerus is in high demand as a speaker at conferences and coaching clinics across the country, making an average of nearly 50 appearances a year. He has been an instructor numerous times at Michael Jordan's Senior Flight School in Las Vegas. Majerus hosts his own basketball camp at the University of Utah. An average of more than 2,000 kids from grades 1-12 attend the the camp on a yearly basis.
One of the most recognizable personalities in college basketball, Majerus has been a frequent guest on national television programs and syndicated radio shows. He has lent his expertise as a television analyst, as well. Majerus was a part of CBS' NCAA Tournament coverage in 1999 and worked the Final Four. He has also been an NBA Draft analyst for TNT.
Majerus' life story, numerous anecdotes and highlights of his coaching career are documented in his autobiography, "My Life On a Napkin: Pillow Mints, Playground Dreams and Coaching the Runnin' Utes." The book, co-authored with ESPN The Magazine senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, was released in the spring of 1999. All proceeds from the sale of the book are going toward breast cancer research.
The Majerus File
Birthdate: February 17, 1948
Hometown: Sheboygan, Wis.
High School: Marquette Univ. HS
College Education: Marquette, B.A., History, 1970; Marquette, Master's, Education, 1979
Hired at Utah: April, 1989
First Game: Nov. 24, 1989 vs. Cal State-Stanislaus
|1989-Present||Utah, Head Coach|
|1993||Team USA (College), Assistant Coach|
|1994||USA Basketball Dream Team II,Assistant Coach|
|1997||USA Basketball Men's 22 and Under Team, Head Coach|
|1987-89||Ball State, Head Coach|
|1986-87||Milwaukee Bucks, Assistant Coach|
|1983-86||Marquette, Head Coach|
|1971-83||Marquette, Assistant Coach|
Majerus' Career Record
|Head Coach - Marquette|
|Head Coach - Ball State|
|1988-89||29-3||.906||14-2||1st||NCAA 2nd Round|
|Head Coach - Utah|
|1989-90||(a) 4-2||.667||- -||- -||- -|
|1990-91||30-4||.882||15-1||1st||NCAA Sweet 16|
|1991-92||24-11||.686||9-7||4th||NIT Final Four|
|1992-93||24-7||.774||15-3||1st-T||NCAA 2nd Round|
|1994-95||28-6||.824||15-3||1st||NCAA 2nd Round|
|1995-96||27-7||.794||15-3||1st||NCAA Sweet 16|
|1996-97||29-4||.878||15-1||1st *||NCAA Elite Eight|
|1997-98||30-4||.882||12-2||1st *||NCAA Runner-up|
|1998-99||28-5||.848||14-0||1st *||NCAA 2nd Round|
|1999-00||23-9||.719||10-4||1st-T||NCAA 2nd Round|
|2000-01||(b) 1-0||1.000||- -||- -||- -|
|2001-02||21-9||.700||10-4||2nd||NCAA 1st Round|
|2002-03||25-8||.758||11-3||1st-T||NCAA 2nd Round|
* WAC Division Finish
(a) Majerus missed last 24 games due to heart surgery
(b) Majerus missed last 30 games while taking a leave of absence
|Assistant Coach - Marquette|
|1971-72||25-4||.862||Al McGuire||NCAA Tournament|
|1972-73||25-4||.862||Al McGuire||NCAA Tournament|
|1973-74||26-5||.839||Al McGuire||NCAA Final Four|
|1974-75||23-4||.852||Al McGuire||NCAA Tournament|
|1975-76||27-2||.931||Al McGuire||NCAA Tournament|
|1976-77||25-7||.781||Al McGuire||NCAA Champions|
|1977-78||24-4||.857||Hank Raymonds||NCAA Tournament|
|1978-79||22-7||.759||Hank Raymonds||NCAA Tournament|
|1979-80||18-9||.667||Hank Raymonds||NCAA Tournament|
|1981-82||23-9||.719||Hank Raymonds||NCAA Tournament|
|1982-83||19-10||.655||Hank Raymonds||NCAA Tournament|
|Assistant Coach - Milwaukee Bucks|
|1986-87||50-32||.610||Don Nelson||NBA Playoffs|
Breaking Down Majerus' Record
|Home||177-13 (.932)||238-31 (.885)|
|Away||92-51 (.643)||123-81 (.603)|
|Neutral||40-26 (.606)||46-30 (.605)|
|Conference Tournaments||18-9 (.667)||21-10 (.667)|
|Postseason NIT||4-1 (.800)||8-4 (.667)|
|NCAA Tournaments||17-10 (.630)||18-11 (.621)|