By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Christian Salecich’s fond memories of Rick Majerus extend beyond the basketball court.
“He would make jokes about me being from Australia,” Salecich said Saturday night. “He would talk to me about my parents, ask how they were doing. He would alwasy talk about family, make sure I stayed in touch with them. Without the care he showed for me off the court, my time would have been a lot tougher.”
Salecich played two seasons for Majerus at Saint Louis University before transferring to Missouri Southern last season. He played one season for the Lions, then had what he thought was a final year of eligibility removed by an NCAA ruling. He is working this season as a student assistant coach.
Majerus, who had one losing season in 25 years as a head coach, died of heart failure on Saturday in a Los Angeles hospital. He was 64.
Majerus had 15 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons while compiling a 517-216 record. His biggest success came at Utah — 323-95 record from 1989-2004 , highlighted by a 1988 NCAA Tournament championship game appearance. Earlier he coached at Marquette (1983-86) and Ball State (1987-89) after serving as an assistant under Al McGuire at Marquette.
“I think about his ability to bring out overall toughness in a player,” Salecich said. “He was the guy I left Australia to play for. Being away from home, his guidance on and off the floor really helped me grow up as a person.
“As far as basketball-wise, I think about his overall knowledge of the game. He knew every situation, he knew every read, he knew every play a team was going to run even before they ran it. His complete dedication to the team and to the game ... he was just overall a great person to have around the game and the college scene.”
The Billikens were 95-69 in five seasons under Majerus, and they reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year.
Majerus had a history of heart and weight problems, and the school announced Nov. 19 that he wouldn’t return because of the heart condition.