SALT LAKE CITY — Rick Majerus was remembered in a variety of ways Wednesday night inside the Huntsman Center. The first seat on the Utah bench was left empty and draped with one of his trademark white sweaters as the Utes paid tribute to the program's former coach, who passed away Saturday at the age of 64.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff honored Majerus by sporting gray sweaters throughout the non-conference game against Boise State, while the team sported commemorative “RM” patches on their uniforms. Fans received replica versions of the patches as they entered the arena. Just prior to tipoff, a short tribute video was shown and a moment of silence observed.
“It’s short notice and I know we’re going to be honoring him later on in the year, but there’s some things that I think were appropriate for this game,” said Utah Director of Player Development Phil Cullen, who played for Majerus from 1998-2002.
Cullen added that the building feels different now that Majerus has passed. He recalled how the coach used to make the journey down to the floor through portal 15.
“It’s been years, but those memories are still present,” Cullen said. “And he is very much still a part of Utah basketball.”
Remembering the coach, who will have his sweater raised to the rafters at a game later this season, was especially important to those who knew Majerus well.
“It’s been a week of reflection, a lot of memories,” said Utah assistant Tommy Connor, who played and coached with Majerus.
Sporting a sweater, he explained, is just part of it.
“I certainly have great memories of coach Majerus profusely sweating through his sweater because I had to tug at it a lot when he would lose his cool,” Connor said. “That was kind of my job on the bench. But I have a feeling we’re going to be sweating tonight.”
Former Majerus assistant Joe Cravens, who is now a broadcaster for the Pac-12 Network, was also in the arena.
“I think that’s a nice tribute. I think he’s very deserving of that,” Cravens said. “He won a multitude of games here and graduated a multitude of players. He took a program that had been kind of wallowing in obscurity and built them into a perennial top-20 program. I think the two things you’re judged on as a head coach is how many you win and how many players you graduate and he did both of those.”
Majerus was 323-95 as Utah’s coach from 1989-2004. He led the Utes to 10 NCAA Tournaments, including an appearance in the 1998 national championship game. Utah had 41 players earn academic all-conference honors during his tenure.