This obviously won’t be the first column you’ll read on the passing of Rick Majerus and certainly won’t be the last. And, if I’m being honest, with my moderate disdain for basketball, in today’s reincarnation of the once-beautiful game, I’m hardly qualified to necessarily write one, but when has that stopped me before?

This ever-decreasing taste for the game aside, Saint Louis University basketball was one brand that I have still enjoyed watching, despite their lack of high profile players or reputation on a national level, at least where the loud and banal stuffed suits at “The World Leader” or CBS are concerned.

SLU plays a brand of basketball that still sits within the rules that were set, and once respected, for the game, and seems to have required this of the coaches they have brought here, none more recognizable in recent memory than the late Charlie Spoonhour, who we also lost this year, and topic of this piece, Rick Majerus.

To look at Majerus, one would assume he lacked the athletic ability or physical prowess necessary to ever have competed in the game he’d become so successful at coaching, but he actually sniffed a little high school ball and tried out as a walk-on at Marquette, admittedly a player lacking talent but trying like hell to make up for it in grit.

This grit would go on to rule his coaching career and be the basis for how he’d make seemingly unqualified players and teams into hard fighting, FUNDAMENTAL winners. Fundamental…yes, there’s a word you don’t see in this slop-fest, highlight real bullshit of today’s game, but Majerus insisted on it.

His teams became winners through long, tough, hard-nosed practices and an insistence on T-E-A-M basketball and no one-man shows, flying through the air after four or five, referee-ignored, illegal steps toward the hoop.

Coming into prominence at Utah, and taking them to the National Championship game, Majerus was often criticized for what the growing number of pussies in this world, a majority with a keyboard, deemed was over aggressive and bullying tactics on the basketball court. What these were, in actuality, were life lessons based in hard work and the fact that life outside of those comfortable, sweet-ass-coed-laden walls of a university was not going to be all puppies and fucking popcorn.

Would he call you a name and dress you down in front of your team? Your goddamned right he would. But he’d also be there to congratulate and sing your praises when you “got it”, if you will. Majerus insisted on hard work and commitment to his system and would reward the “blue collar” player from the end of the bench, diving around on the floor for loose balls and forcing turnovers, just as much as he would that guy with natural talent and a scorer’s repertoire.

He didn’t play favorites and he didn’t care if you, me, the media, or even his superiors, gave 2-shits about that. This was another beautiful thing about Rick Majerus. He wasn’t going to bow to the powers that be just to suffice the masses and not make waves – quite the contrary.

In a sports world that has long been flooded with bullshit cliché and meaningless column-fodder from the mouths of every coach, from a Super Bowl winner down to any local high school whistle-wearer who’s lucky enough to get a microphone stuck in front of their has-been mug, Majerus was one of the few who was a breath of fresh and air and had the balls to tell you what he really thought, correctness be damned.

Success, confidence and a comfortable economic lot in life had probably helped push this along in these later years, but this reputation seems to have been with him for the majority of his career. He was funny, engaging and, most of all honest. This is what, upon his initial retirement from coaching, made him such a refreshing face in the world of college basketball analysts, and one who was actually qualified to speak to the TRUE parameters of the game, not just there for catch phrases and verbal fellatio when some undereducated ball-hog jumped high and shoved the ball through the net.

Rick Majerus didn’t likely NEED to return to coaching and bless us with his presence in St. Louis, but I thank Vin Diesel that he did and I thank him for his tireless dedication to the game, keeping it beautiful and ending it with a legendary run in the NCAA tournament that nobody saw coming and will serve as a fitting exclamation point to a wonderful life and career.

Rick Majerus was larger than life in stature, personality and basketball wisdom. With the risk of sounding hyperbolic, he truly gave his heart to this game.

Rest in peace, big man…KMFP-out!

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