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And Another Thing

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Farewell to an original

He was the son of a union organizer who carried his union card his whole life, because he never wanted to forget where he came from.

A basketball nomad, he lived most of his life in hotels. And not just on the road; he literally lived in a hotel. And in more ways than just that one, he took the path least traveled, or sometimes never traveled at all.

And now, Rick Majerus is gone, at 64. And while people say all the time in these situations that there'll never be another one like him, there really will never be another one like him.

He learned at the knee of a basketball iconoclast, Al McGuire, and so was one himself. In a profession gone almost entirely corporate, he never quite fit the mold of The College Basketball Coach as the prevailing culture defined such things.

And yet, he was also the quintessential college guy. The anti-Calipari, he never understood the one-and-done culture, the notion that college basketball should be little more than a holding pen for future pros.

"We are not a bottom-line deal,'' he said at the Final Four in 1998, where his Utah team lost to Kentucky in the title game. "We represent the university. You get these guys coming out early, and . . . they make a deal with the devil.

"Yes, you will get a lot of money in your life. But then after the money, what else do you have? You don't have friends, don't develop a sense of self, compromise a lot of your self-esteem. You see yourself as a basketball player only and not something beyond that.''

Majerus always saw his players as something beyond that. And for that, college hoops is immensely poorer today.

Ben Smith's blog.

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