SALT LAKE CITY — One of the largest crowds in recent years turned out Saturday afternoon for Utah’s basketball game against Colorado.
It wasn’t necessarily to see the Utes, who were coming off a 31-point loss to Stanford six days earlier. Rather, it was to honor former Ute coach Rick Majerus as just under 11,000 fans turned out for the afternoon game and were able to watch the Utes play one of their better games, hanging on for dear life to beat the favored Buffaloes 58-55.
The Utes honored Majerus, who passed away two months ago at the age of 64, in a halftime ceremony that included a short video tribute and culminated with a replica of his famous cream-colored sweater being unveiled inside the Huntsman Center next to the retired numbers of great Ute players.
Majerus coached the Utes from 1989 to 2004 and won 323 games during that time. He claimed nine conference championships and took the Utes to 10 NCAA tournaments, highlighted by the 1998 trip to the NCAA championship game.
“One of the greatest honors you can have at the University of Utah is to have your number and name in the rafters,’’ said Utah athletics director Chris Hill during the halftime ceremony. "Everybody associated with this program knows that coach Majerus needs to be recognized with the great players of all time. When we decided to do this, it became pretty obvious: We had to put his sweater up there.’’
Approximately two dozen former Ute players walked onto the court at halftime and stood while Hill spoke, along with Jodi Majerus, Rick’s sister. Among the former players on hand were Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac, Andre Miller and Josh Grant. Miller, who still plays for the Denver Nuggets and had a game the night before in Denver, flew in late Saturday morning and arrived just in time for the game.
Van Horn spoke in behalf of the players, saying, “It needs to be said: He was one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time. There’s no place he’d rather be remembered than here tonight. We hope that his legacy continues.’’
Earlier Van Horn had said, “He played a really big role in a lot of our lives — in a lot of different ways, not just on the court but off the court as well. It’s a great honor for him and I know all the players are excited to be here to honor and respect what he did for all of them.
“Rick was a huge part of my life, a huge part of the University of Utah, so I think it’s awesome that they are honoring him this way,’’ added Doleac.
The video tribute featured Jon Huntsman Sr., a close friend of Majerus, and Tommy Connor, who played for and coached with Majerus.
“We miss him and thank him for everything he’s done for the University of Utah,’’ concluded Hill.
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