ST. LOUIS (AP) — Saint Louis men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus will not return to the team because of a serious heart condition.
The 64-year-old Majerus ended the school’s 12-year NCAA tournament drought last season with a 26-win team that won its opening game and took top regional seed Michigan State to the wire.
The Billikens were ranked for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
“Coach Majerus’ health is of the utmost importance, and our thoughts and prayers are with him as he faces his challenges,” athletic director Chris May said in a statement.
“We are thankful for Rick’s efforts as he succeeded by all accounts as our head men’s basketball coach. This is an exciting season for the program, and we think it is important to communicate, with transparency, to the student-athletes, staff and our loyal fans that Rick will not be returning.”
Majerus has been undergoing evaluation and treatment in California for ongoing heart trouble and the school announced he was on leave in late August. He and his representatives have requested that the school’s department of athletics not provide additional details regarding his health.
Majerus has a history of heart woes dating to 1989 and has been on blood thinner medication. He had a stent inserted in his heart in August 2011 in Salt Lake City, and missed a handful of games in the 2011-12 season after gashing his leg in a collision with players who had been diving for a loose ball.
May said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a close friend of Majerus, has been a “true godsend” in dealing with the coach’s medical situation.
“Rick put his heart and soul into the team, and though he wishes he could be on the court, he will be pulling for the Billikens to have another great year,” Huntsman said. “Rick sends his heartfelt gratitude for a dedicated and superb basketball team and coaching staff, together with the support of the great Billiken fans and the Saint Louis University department of athletics.”
Majerus has a 25-year record of 517-216 with just one losing season and was 95-69 in five seasons at Saint Louis. He has taken 12 teams to the NCAA tournament and four to the NIT and his 1998 Utah team lost in the NCAA championship game to Kentucky.
Jim Crews, added to the coaching staff last season by Majerus, is the school’s interim coach.
“The focus for this season does not change,” May said. “Rick built this team to be in a position to compete for championships, and we will move forward with that same goal.”
The school will honor Majerus at a home game during the Atlantic 10 season. Fans will have the opportunity to sign “Get Well Soon” cards at upcoming games.