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Majerus gets six-year contract to coach Saint Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Rick Majerus got out of coaching three years
ago because of health concerns. Now his biggest worry is putting
Saint Louis on the basketball map.

Rick Majerus Majerus

Majerus replaces Brad Soderberg, who won 20 games in the last of
his five seasons but failed to generate even an NIT bid his last
three years. Soderberg was fired April 17.

Majerus, an ESPN analyst the last three years, agreed to a
six-year contract Friday.

"I saw this as an opportunity," the 59-year-old coach said at
a news conference Monday. "I don't think I forgot how to do it. I
love practice and I love the kids and I like the game."

Majerus led Utah to 10 NCAA appearances in 15 seasons. He also
has coached at Ball State and Marquette, and was a Milwaukee Bucks
assistant. He has a career record of 422-147 with 15 postseason
appearances.

"The coaching profession is a much better place today because
Rick Majerus is back in it," Marquette coach Tom Crean said.
"Rick has proven time and time again what it takes to win."

Majerus feels ready to take on the challenge of leading a school
that last made it to the NCAA tournament in 2000. Rotund and nearly
bald, Majerus thought his appearance "eerily" similar to that of
the school's gnomelike Billiken mascot.

"I'm never going to wear a 42 regular," he said. "But I swim
one mile every day, and on a good day a mile and a half. I think my
health is good, or I wouldn't do this. It wouldn't be fair to
them."

Father Lawrence Biondi, the school president, hired Majerus to
elevate the school to top 50 status.

"Rick, I am sure, will tell you it won't happen overnight,"
Biondi said. "But it will happen. This is a truly exciting day for
men's basketball."

Majerus inherits a team that finished in the middle of the pack
in the Atlantic 10 and returns four starters.

"I just don't know the guys well enough," he said. "You don't
want to panic in these situations. It's not about this year, it's
about laying the groundwork for the program."

If he doesn't know his roster yet, the players know all about
him.

"I think he's going to move the program in the right
direction," forward Luke Meyer said. "He's a big name, and his
reputation precedes him."

Athletic director Cheryl Levick wanted to give Soderberg one
more season but was overruled by Biondi, who envisioned the hiring
of Majerus as a complement to the school's new $85 million
on-campus arena due to open in November 2008.

"I'm a big supporter of Brad, but that has nothing to do with
Rick," Levick said. "He'll take this program to the next level as
we open this new arena. It's the perfect combination."

Majerus coached Utah to the NCAA tournament final in 1998,
losing to Kentucky. He stepped down in January 2004 because of his
health. He accepted the Southern California job in December 2004
only to change his mind three days later.

Last year, he turned down an offer to become a Denver Nuggets
assistant. Nuggets coach George Karl, a close friend, said staying
in the Midwest was a wise choice. Majerus has lived in Milwaukee,
where his mother is, while working for ESPN.

"I don't think it had anything to do with money," Karl said.
"I think he picked a position where he thinks he can have success
and also get healthy and stay healthy."

Fans and students attending the news conference cheered wildly
when Majerus entered the room.

"Today a new chapter in Billiken basketball begins with the
hiring of one of the most successful coaches of all time," Biondi
said. "Rick is a coach who lives and breaths basketball and who
sees the future of what we have at SLU."