Missing Majerus

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Saint Louis NBC affiliate KSDK announced today that “Saint Louis University men’s basketball coach Rick Majerus will miss the upcoming season due to health issues.”  The announcement comes a year after Majerus had heart surgery and months after the Billikens earned a 26-8 record, the second most wins in school history.  Assistant coach Jim Crews will serve as the interim head coach.

With the news that Rick Majerus will miss the entire 2012-13 season, leaving the Saint Louis Billikens without their accomplished head coach, there are now more questions than ever about the A10 race and the status of the Billikens men’s basketball program.

Why announce today?  Majerus’s health is a known issue.  This is a man who has had seven bypasses and two stents.  Medical leave is nothing new.  Why not announce when his health was most recently called into question?  In late July, a rumor surfaced on billikens.com that Majerus was seriously ill.  However, the rumor was removed from the website at the school’s request.  How long did university officials know that Majerus would step aside?  Perhaps the announcement was tabled until more season tickets were sold.

Alternatively, is this really for health reasons, or is it related to a feud between Majerus and university president, Father Lawrence Biondi?  Biondi has already come under fire recently for taking over a million dollars from the law school to fund his personal “opportunity” fund.  Maybe Majerus decided that enough is enough.  This is the last year remaining on his contract and he may see the writing on the wall that it’s time to leave.

With Majerus aside, will the Billikens be able to win big, as predicted by many analysts, without him?  Interim coach Jim Crews left an Evansville program following two losing seasons and regular finishes in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley.  He then coached at Army and garnered an embarrassing .296 record (.214 in the Patriot League).  The situation is made worse when considering that his most experienced assistant coach will be Jim Whitesell, who was fired as the head coach at Loyola (IL) after four straight losing seasons (and five in seven years).

The playing talent will remain at SLU.  The coaching talent?  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I think things just started looking a lot better for the Bulldogs, who will play the Billikens twice in 2012-13.  Welcome to the A10.  It’s going to be a heck of a ride.

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Matt Morton is a graduate of VCU and a cloud computing expert. He is a devoted college hoops fan and has been covering college hoops on the side since 2007.

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