Saying goodbye to an old friend, Rick Majerus


Saying goodbye to an old friend, Rick Majerus

When I learned of the death of my very good friend, Rick Majerus, on Saturday night, I wasnt stunned but deeply saddened. I knew that Rick was in very poor health and was never going to coach again, but I wasnt prepared for the sadness that I feel at the loss of a friend who has had a great influence on my life.
I have known Rick since we coached against each other in 1982, when he was an assistant at Marquette and I was a young assistant at Northern Illinois. I remember getting to know him well after he was named Marquettes head coach in 1983, and I would see him on the recruiting trail looking at players in and around the Chicago area.
However, we became very close when he moved on to Ball State and then the University of Utah, when he became a subscriber to my scouting service that I spent 10 years publishing after leaving coaching. Rick would call often about players, looking for a sleeper that Big Ten schools had missed on, and always asked about the toughness of a particular player.
Is he tough enough to play for me? What kind of a kid is he? Those would always be the first questions he would ask, saving questions on the players basketball skills for later in our conversation.
First, he always asked about me and my family and how my son Brett was doing.
When I remarried in 2004, I sent Rick an invitation sure that he wouldnt attend. But he flew from Maui to be at the ceremony and then spent several hours at the reception talking basketball and sports with some of the other guests. Rick took a genuine interest in my family, including my son and stepsons who he always asked me about, even offering my oldest stepson Nick a chance to attend his camps or to walk on and play for him at St. Louis University.
A few years ago Rick called me on a summer afternoon and asked me how my career was going, and was I making progress in getting to call college basketball games as an analyst on TV. When I asked him, "Why?" he replied, I am going to the Milwaukee Brewers game tonight with a TV executive who I am very good friends with. When you get done with your radio show, drive to Milwaukee and have dinner with us. I want him to meet you and I want to tell him he needs to hire you to do games for him.
That was Rick in a nutshell. Thinking of how he could help someone else. Always calling and inviting me to games, to dinner or agreeing to come on my radio show. He was an amazing friend who would never say no and just wanted to have fun together and talk ball as he called it. We would X and O or just talk basketball and about life.
He asked me to have him on my radio show a couple of seasons back, but he wanted to make sure that it would be a lengthy interview. "Put me on for an entire hour, Kap. I want to talk with you," he said. When I told him that I couldn't devote a full hour to St. Louis University basketball on a Chicago radio station, he laughed and said, "We can talk about stem cell research and abortion rights and the war, too. I just went to a Hillary Clinton rally and I have a lot to say about things other than basketball."
We booked the interview and he spent most of the hour talking about social issues, the importance of family and education and a few minutes on how much he loved coaching at St. Louis University. That was the Rick Majerus I knew. He was well-read, he was a deep thinker and he was as loyal a friend as you could possibly hope to have.
He was an amazing man and someone that I will never forget. Rick, I will miss you, my friend. I hope you are sitting down to a wonderful meal and talking ball with some of the all-time greats who are in heaven with you. I will always cherish our friendship and your influence on my life. Rest in peace.

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Morning Update: Cubs open World Series tonight; Hawks lose in shootout

Here are some of the biggest stories from the day in Chicago sports:

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 1 coverage on CSN

Blackhawks get a point but Kris Versteeg wins it for Flames in shootout

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

Five Things from Blackhawks-Flames: Same old story on the penalty kill

Local product and former fan Jason Kipnis has 'zero conflict' extending Cubs' World Series title drought

Bears get Jay Cutler back as QB competition with Brian Hoyer fades to black

No-brainer: Cubs rolling with Jon Lester again in World Series Game 1

The making of a superstar: Kris Bryant believes in Cubs — not goats or curses

What can the Cubs expect from the Cleveland Indians in the World Series?

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

Why Cubs wouldn't pay the price for Andrew Miller and got Aroldis Chapman from Yankees

CLEVELAND — As the New York Yankees marketed Andrew Miller this summer and prepared for their first sell-off in a generation, their demands started at either Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez — and the Cubs still would have been forced to throw in more talent to get the All-Star reliever.

This could be the fascinating what-if for this World Series. The Cleveland Indians paid the price, giving up a four-player package headlined by outfielder Clint Frazier (the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft) and left-hander Justus Sheffield (the No. 31 pick in the 2014 draft) to get what turned out to be the American League Championship Series MVP.

The Cubs didn’t make Schwarber untouchable because they thought he would be ready in time for the World Series, but he’s preparing to be their Game 1 designated hitter on Tuesday night at Progressive Field after a remarkable recovery from major surgery on his left knee.

“It was impossible to avoid some of the names — particularly the Cubs — (with) the year they were having,” Miller said. “Whether I wanted to avoid it or not I heard it. Guys in the clubhouse, our media was certainly bringing it to us.”

Even in other possible deals for pitching, the Cubs never came close to selling low on Baez, who broke out as the National League Championship Series co-MVP for his offensive production and defensive wizardry. 

Instead of getting Miller’s late-game dominance for three pennant races — and giving up five potential 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons with Schwarber — the Cubs closed a different blockbuster deal with the Yankees for a left-handed power arm.

The Cubs wanted Aroldis Chapman’s 100-mph fastball to get the last out of the World Series and would rationalize his 30-game suspension to begin this season under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. Already holding an age-22 All-Star shortstop in Addison Russell, the Cubs surrendered elite prospect Gleyber Torres.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

“Gleyber’s a good baseball player,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That kid’s going to be really good. So you have to give up something to get something. But also our guys felt if we got Aroldis this year, we’d have a chance to be sitting here and answering this question. And they were right.

“It’s an entirely different thing when you get a guy out there throwing 100 miles an hour. You feel pretty good about it, regardless of who is hitting. So he’s really a big part of why we’re doing this right now.”

Chapman has saved five playoff games — and become that reassuring ninth-inning presence at Wrigley Field — but he clearly responds better to a scripted role.

Miller has been untouchable during the postseason, throwing 11 2/3 scoreless innings and striking out 21 of the 41 batters he’s faced, giving Terry Francona even more freedom to manage a lights-out Cleveland bullpen.

“To be utilized like Miller,” Maddon said, “not everybody is cut from the same cloth mentally, either, or the ability to get loose and prepare. Andrew Miller — having done a variety of different things in the big leagues as a pitcher — is probably more suited to be able to be this guy that can get up in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth and warm up in a manner that gets him in the game both mentally and physically.

“Whereas Aroldis — if he wanted to do that — I think that would have had to be done from spring training. He’d have to differentiate his mindset. He’d have to have a different way to get ready. I do notice he throws a heavy baseball before he actually throws a regular baseball. That’s his routine.

“Whether you agree with it or not, that’s just the way it is. So with a guy like Aroldis — to ask him to attempt to dump his routine right now (and) do something else — I think you’re looking for failure right there.

“We stretched him to five outs the other night, which is a good thing, I thought. So now going forward he knows he can do that. But to just haphazardly throw him in the sixth, seventh or ninth, I think would be very difficult to do.”

Even in a World Series featuring historic droughts, Cy Young Award winners, MVP candidates and star managers, this October could come down to the bullpens shaped by deals with the Yankees.

“Both teams made aggressive trades,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Both teams are still standing. There’s something to that.”