Coach Majerus

Quite honestly, after reading the beautiful tributes to Rick Majerus written by Bernie Miklasz [LINK] and Andy Katz [LINK] , I don’t even want to try and duplicate what they did. Both Bernie and Andy had personal relationships with the coach that went well beyond basketball, and if you haven’t had a chance to read either of their columns, I can’t recommend them enough.

I’d imagine all tributes written to the life and career of Rick Majerus pay respect to his brilliant basketball mind, and Bernie and Katz were able to convey the heart inside of a complex but genius man.

I’ll never forget Majerus inviting the cast of TheITDRoll.com Morning After to join him for lunch at Adriana’s On The Hill. I don’t even know how the whole idea of doing it came to pass, but I know Majerus initiated it on the air…and after finally working everything out with everyone’s schedules, The Cat, Doug, Producer Joe, and myself were able to meet him there---just the five of us---and have lunch.

Just like his appearances on the show, basketball was about 25% of the content of the conversation. And, when we were talking basketball, it wasn’t necessarily X’s and O’s. It was about his dislike of the Atlantic-10, his feelings on the circumstances surrounding the suspensions of Willie Reed and Kwamain Mitchell, and his passion for the academic side of college athletics.

I remember walking out of Adriana’s that day wishing that I had a recording of the conversation…because it was just fascinating.

Perhaps it’s fitting that in his final NCAA Tournament, Majerus was coaching a team that he had to build from nothing---similar to Ball State and Utah---and have them win in the first round (or second round as the NCAA is now calling it), which he did all but one time in all of his trips to the Tournament.

Perhaps it’s fitting that his last NCAA Tournament win featured his Billiken team battling back from eight points down in the second half to beat favored Memphis.

Perhaps it’s fitting that in his final game, he had his team battling a #1 seed to within minutes of a shocking upset…when from a talent perspective, they weren’t supposed to even be in the game. Nothing summed up his team’s “how in the hell are they doing this” performance better than the smile and shake of the head in disbelief from Tom Izzo when the Billikens cut the Michigan State lead to three with seconds remaining.

But, I thought it was the postgame press conference that day that summed up Majerus best.

Saint Louis U. senior Brian Conklin is crying at the podium. And despite his emotion, Conklin’s able to get these words out:

“He’s a great coach. I couldn’t imagine playing for a better coach, a better person. He doesn’t just teach you about ball, he teaches you about life.”

And then there’s Majerus at his final press conference that same day. Textbook Majerus. He’s talking about the Billikens’ offense…and then as he was so apt to do…he segued into something completely different than what he had been talking about.

And he lost it.

“I don’t want you to think I’m out of breath here. It’s just very emotional for me with Brian Conklin,” Majerus said…as he struggled for words. “You get attached to kids. I’ll get to see him again…but not in the capacity that they're in now.”

Yep. That was fitting in so many ways.

The Rams

They may not make the playoffs this year. Hell, it’s highly unlikely they make the playoffs this year. But, if they make the playoffs next year, my guess is we’ll look back at Sunday afternoon at The Dome as the foundation victory.

We mock power rankings on the show constantly, but it says quite a bit about the quality of the 49ers that---despite the records of the Falcons and Texans---many considered the previously 8-2-1 49ers to be the best team in the NFL. They sat atop USA Today’s power rankings this week…and the reason was the change at quarterback.

Colin Kaepernick carved up the Bears’ defense just two weeks ago. He did it again to a much less impressive Saints’ defense last week. But, the Rams made his day in St. Louis difficult.

The Rams likely got quite a break on the safety call, and those two points mattered.

And, the Rams got quite a break when the 49ers made a batshit playcall with the option pitch that led to the Janoris Jenkins’ fumble recovery and touchdown. Kaepernick took the blame saying he shouldn’t have pitched it. And, Jim Harbaugh also took the blame saying the play shouldn’t have been called at that point.

Those mistakes---combined with another David Akers’ missed FG in overtime---let the Rams back in.

This time…they didn’t let it slip away.

The Rams now sit at 5-6-1…and those of us who have watched them every week of the season know that losses at Detroit and Miami were there for the taking…and the tie at San Francisco…were wins that the Rams pissed away.

Now, of course damn near every team in the NFL can play the could’ve/should’ve game, but the Rams have three could’ves/should’ves.

Considering they’re actually in the playoff race, just one of those losses or the tie going in the win category would put them in a different world.

But, at 5-6-1, it’s going to take running the table to get into the NFC playoffs…and quite honestly…I’m not even sure 9-6-1 gets them in.

The Rams go to Buffalo…then finish off the home season at home against Minnesota…and then travel to Tampa Bay and Seattle.

I don’t see a guaranteed win. On the other hand, I don’t see a guaranteed loss…although winning at Seattle is difficult no matter how bad the Seahawks are…and right now, they’re coming off a win at Chicago putting them at 7-5.

But, when you’ve played a team that could very well win the Super Bowl as tightly as the Rams have both in San Francisco and at The Dome, it’s tough to rule out any game.

With that all out there, realistically, 2012 isn’t the Rams’ year.

It’d be incredible to see them in the playoffs, but mathematically it’s not too likely to happen.

But, yesterday, oddly enough, may wind up being more about 2013 and beyond.

Sam Bradford’s words sum it up.

“It’s a huge win for this team and this organization. It’s just something for us to build on going into the future.”

Quick Hits

-We went and saw Kevin Nealon Saturday night at The Funny Bone. Nealon was a great guest Friday morning on TheITDRoll.com Morning After. His act didn’t disappoint. But, one thing baffled me. I’ve seen George Carlin in concert. I’ve seen Dave Chapelle in concert. And, in those shows, I don’t recall hecklers/audience members yelling things out. For whatever reason, there was a decent amount of that at Nealon’s show. Now, for those of you who go to comedy shows all the time, maybe you’d tell me that goes on all the time. But, I thought for a guy like Nealon, it wouldn’t. I’m intrigued by the logic of screaming at a comedian as he or she performs. Either way, Nealon brought it strong.

-Tip of the cap to the Billikens for going out and dismantling a Valparaiso team that came to town 5-1. Saint Louis U. handled that emotion from the news of Coach Majerus’ passing Saturday night in fine fashion Sunday afternoon. They don’t play a game away from Chaifetz for more than a month. They’re now 4-3. Wouldn’t it be a hell of a story if this team comes together and goes on a run this year?

-In a year in which the Missouri football team vomited on cloth and wore it for some games…and in a year in which the Cardinals were going back to 1995 and wearing the red caps with the road uniforms…and in a year in which the Rams usually look like something at a PeeWee League in those all blue uniforms, it was refreshing to see the throwbacks yesterday. I always thought those things looked so 1980’s back in 1995 through 1999, but over the years, the Rams have switched up their uniform combinations so many times…and some bad combinations…that the old blue and yellow looked damn good.

-Pat Forde tweeted this before all the bowl bids got sent out yesterday, and it was 100% accurate---in my opinion---then…and feels even more right on target now: “It’s the time of year when we are reminded of this college football truth: best regular season and worst postseason in sports.”

-And, with that, here are a few of the BCS bowl match-ups you can look forward to:

-Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. (8-5) Wisconsin

-Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Northern Illinois

-Sugar Bowl on random Wednesday night January 2nd: Florida vs. Louisville

Sweet system.

-This year’s Gary Pinkel Ballot Farce Award goes to Vanderbilt’s James Franklin. Here’s his top four in his USA Today Coaches’ Poll ballot:

1.    Alabama
2.    Georgia
3.    Florida
4.    Notre Dame

Oh, and he had Vanderbilt ranked 16th in the country.

For the record, Vanderbilt was not ranked in the most recent poll.

Sweet system.

Fortunately, the poll doesn’t matter…and the BCS is gone in two years.

-And finally, Bob Costas commented on the tragedy in Kansas City this weekend at halftime of last night’s Sunday Night Football. Here’s a look at the clip. Do you agree with him? Do you disagree with him? Do you agree with him…but don’t feel like it’s the right time to discuss it? Or, do you disagree with him…and don’t feel like it’s the right time to discuss it?

Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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