Five years is it has taken for Rick Majerus to mastermind the Saint Louis transformation from Atlantic 10 also-rans to genuine contenders.
Sadly, Majerus is not going to be able to coach the team that have enjoyed impressive ncaab results in recent years as he taking a leave of absence for at least the upcoming season as a result of health concerns.
The 64-year-old former Utah and Ball State coach is undergoing evaluation and treatment for an ongoing heart condition at a California hospital.
His assistant coach Jim Crews is set to take over as the interim coach – he was a former head coach at Army and Evansville, so it won’t be an unusual position for him.
No decision has yet been made concerning the following season meaning that Majerus could still return to lead the team if his health issues permit. The absence of Majerus comes right in the middle of preparations for a season that figures to be special for the Billikens.
Every key player besides forward Brian Conklin returns from last year’s 24-win team, raising hopes that Saint Louis can out battle the likes of VCU, Butler and Temple for the Atlantic 10 title.
What is worrying though is that this isn’t the first time that Majerus has needed to take time-out due to health issues. In his first season at Utah in 1989, he underwent coronary bypass surgery six games into the season. He later left the Utah program in 2004 after being hospitalized again for heart problems earlier in the year.
Let’s hope that his health issues don’t preclude him from finishing what he has started at Saint Louis and that their ncaab scores don’t suffer in his absence.
Fingers crossed he can overcome this latest issue and make a welcome return to the Saint Louis bench because college basketball wouldn’t and won’t be the same without him.