ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-Students at Saint Louis University are mourning the loss of Billiken basketball coach Rick Majerus. The 64-year old died Saturday of heart complications in a Los Angeles hospital. He had taken a leave of absence for the season due to his long standing heart problems and in mid-November resigned as coach.
News of his death spread first through social media and then was confirmed by Saint Louis University after 9:30pm Saturday.
"What I will remember most about Rick's tenure at SLU was his enduring passion to see his players excel both on and off the court," said university athletic director Chris May. "He truly embraced the term 'student-athlete,' and I think that will be his lasting legacy."
Majerus spent 25 years as a collegiate head coach, his last five with the Billikens. He is credited with turning around the program.
"He's brought the team a long way ..brought them up to national prominence which is good for the school, I think," said one fan after hearing the news Saturday night.
A member of the Billiken pep band credited Majerus with bringing student fans back to the games. " He definitely brought the SLU community together, I felt. From what I'd heard, before I came to SLU, not many students came to the game. But every game I was at for the last two years, the student section was full," she said." Every one loved him, the team succeeded immensely."
Another fan spoke fondly of the coach. " His numbers speak for itself. He's won over 70 percent of the games he's ever coached. He's going to be sorely missed."
The university announced counselors and campus ministers would be available to student-athletes if needed.
University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. extended the university community's "deepest sympathies and our prayers to Rick's family and friends during this very difficult time."
Although Majerus presented a gruff, tough presence on the sideline, colleagues knew him as one of the best teachers of the game.
"'Nobody loved basketball and teaching kids more that Rick," said SLU interim head coach Jim Crews. "His passion for the game and the coaching profession was unparalleled."
Sunday's 3:30 pm game against Valparaiso will take place as scheduled at the Chaifetz Arena on the SLU campus.
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