About Utah: Rick Majerus was brilliant, funny and fascinating

Published: Friday, Dec. 7 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The self-deprecation belied a tremendous awareness and drive. He used to swim an hour a day, and I remember the time he ran the San Antonio Marathon. He finished in just under six hours, a noteworthy accomplishment for someone his size, especially considering it had been just 23 months since his seven bypasses (as he said, "one for each major food group"). But he downplayed the effort and deflected all the credit to one of his players, Mark Rydalch of Kamas, who at the time was taking a leave of absence to serve an LDS mission in San Antonio.

Rydalch's assignment, Majerus explained, was to place dry clothes at various locations along the marathon route. "I sweat a lot," he said. "I told him if he wanted any mercy when he gets back, he better come through. I saw Rydalch at mile 13 and he had a new shirt and my number pinned on. I told him I was happier to see him than he'd have been if he'd seen Joseph Smith."

He had a way with people and a way with words. And so many stories. I remember him telling me about a trip he took to Africa one offseason with his pal Don Nelson to scout teams they would be playing in an international tournament. On a visit to a remote village, a hunting knife caught Majerus's eye. The native who owned it indicated he'd trade it for the University of Utah shirt Majerus was wearing.

"Grossed Nellie out all the way back to town, me with no shirt," said Majerus. "But I really wanted that knife."

That's the Rick Majerus I remember and miss. A fascinating man, an astute observer of life — and the most brilliant basketball coach I ever saw.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Monday and Friday. Email: benson@desnews.com

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