Former University of Utah coach Rick Majerus died Saturday in Los Angeles of heart failure. He was 64.
Majerus embraced the Jazz throughout his years in Salt Lake City, even though some of his best friends including Don Nelson, George Karl and Del Harris coached some of their fiercest rivals. He attended practices and games and, I think, used the fact they were prospering in Utah as a positive in recruiting.
Soon after word of Majerus' death began to spread, I called former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan for his reaction.
"I'm awfully sorry to hear that," Sloan said. "He certainly knew a lot about basketball. ... He was a fundamentalist guy with a great basketball mind. He will certainly be missed."
After Sloan's first wife, Bobbye, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, Majerus became a dependable supporter and valued member of her recovery team.
"He always made himself available to her," Sloan said.
Bobbye Sloan died of pancreatic cancer on June 18, 2004.
Former Jazz coach, general manager and team president Frank Layden called Majerus "... a great coach who was very devoted to his mother and his family."
Layden and Majerus always had a passion for fine food. Many times, they shared an expensive meal, in Utah or when Majerus ran into the Jazz on the road.
"He was a very generous guy, by the way," Layden said. "There wasn't a tab he wouldn't pick up and, for anybody who needed help, he was right there."
On the court, Layden called Majerus "a great coach one of the best at preparing his team and preparing his players before a big game. ... He was a hard worker. He always went back to fundamentals. And he just loved basketball. He could sit and talk basketball with you for hours. He was a good man. I'm going to miss him."