On press row on Saturday night we learned that Rick Majerus had died. I knew from talking to Coach Dave Boots over the years that he’d had a long and steady rapport with the fallen coach, who’d been seriously ill for sometime. In hindsight, I felt a little guilty shoving a recorder in Boots’ face about it minutes after the IUPUI win — he wasn’t aware, prior to me asking for comment, that his friend had passed on. Anyway, this is what Boots said:
“I knew him as well as I’ve known anybody in coaching, forever,” Boots said. “I was a little young assistant coach at Augsburg the first time I met him. He was coaching at Marquette and a good friend of our coach at Augsburg. I’ve known him ever since then. Great person. One of the great basketball minds. He lived and breathed basketball. That’s a huge loss for the basketball world.”
On to less important matters…I asked Boots what it felt like to be .500 in the Summit. It was offered in sort of a joking manner — a 1-1 record is technically .500, though not something to schedule carnivals around — but Boots, after laughing initially, was pretty straightforward with his response.
“We’re trying to do better than that,” he said. “We had a long talk after practice (Friday night) about that. We have to have a competitive spirit and a will to win a little bit more with our guys. That was about a 15-minute lecture.”
Aside from Juevol Myles’ first-half and Karim Rowson’s continued strong play, the contest was distinctive because of the play of Brandon Bos. Bos is a sophomore guard who played small minutes last year and is again a reserve. He’s a very strong and athletic kid for the two-guard spot, but he’s not been able to get to the consistent minute stage in his career yet. On Saturday night, when Tyler Flack got his second foul right away, it meant the Coyotes were going to have to do some shifting around. For much of the time that meant moving the 6-5 Rowson from the three to the four with the other three spots manned by guards most of the time.
Bos played 27 minutes and finished with 16 points, hitting 9-of-10 from the line.
“Karim did a great job playing at the four…it gave Brandon a chance to play the 3 for us,” Boots said. “He’s a young guy, he didn’t play much last year but he’s just a sophomore, he’s still getting his feet wet. He’s a great offensive player who needs to shore up his defense and play with a little more intensity, not only in games but in practice. He made a great contribution (against IUPUI). Now he needs to keep doing that and stay more consistent for us.”
I didn’t mention it in my game story about the women’s win over Utah Valley but it was Amy Williams’ 100th win of her coaching career. I didn’t get the impression she thought it was a big deal. The 200th, should it come at USD, would probably merit more of a celebration.
The women looked a lot sharper on Saturday than they did on Thursday. I do not think the Utah Valley defense was comparable to the defense the Coyotes faced against Idaho State on Thursday, but overall the squad looked a little more confident.
There were several parallels with how the men’s game went, foremost of which was big points from one of the squad’s big guns. As with Myles, the increased offense from Seekamp began with a conversation with the coach about when and where to shoot.
The women don’t begin Summit play until Dec. 30th, so there is time to make progress yet. The squad is much feistier on the boards than I’d anticipated they’d be. Otherwise, no huge surprises. Obviously, you could guess they were going to miss Hegge, who was the top player in the Summit last year. The thing that they would probably be wise to remember is that even with Hegge, they suffered through some significant dead spots in games on offense last year. One of the defining features of the 2011-12 team, in fact, was that they did a good job of scrapping through the dark minutes until they were able to get things rolling again on offense. This year, judging from the comments from Williams, they’re not doing that as well as a year ago.
Newcomers Seekamp and Polly Harrington are definitely solid, above-average Summit League-level players, right now. No need to wait a year to say that. The key for USD will be to surround their contributions with as much offensive consistency as possible on a nightly basis.
And back to Majerus….I did have one first-person experience with the guy. I went to a Minnesota High School all-star game with a college friend in 1982. My friend had worked at several basketball camps with Majerus, who was an assistant at Marquette at the time. He’d replace Hank Raymond as head coach at Marquette soon after, but was essentially a nobody the day I met him. He recognized my friend — there weren’t many people at the game — and sat next to us for the second half. A real nut, I thought at the time, in a good way. Very outgoing and comfortable. He seemed to genuinely enjoy sitting and talking to us. I followed his career pretty closely after that. Obviously the guy had his challenges in life but always seemed to be extremely well-liked by colleagues.