Rick Majerus' solitary season on an NBA bench in 1986-87 was spent as a Milwaukee Bucks assistant to head coach Don Nelson and sidekick to then-Bucks assistant Del Harris. Nelson and Harris quickly became two of Majerus' closest friends in the game.
The longtime college basketball coach's passing Saturday was thus felt deeply in Dallas, where the Nelson-and-Harris tag team remains firmly entrenched after they reunited with the Mavericks from 2000 through 2007 alongside current Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.
Said Harris on Sunday: "Rick will be known by his friends and those players who followed him closely by one short sentence: He cared.
"Regardless of how demanding he was, Rick proved his love for friends and players past and present in a myriad of ways. I have recorded and saved voicemails he has sent me and my son Dominic has saved encouraging letters Rick sent him from years past. Obviously I could go on and on.
"He had tons of friends (in the game). He was totally dedicated to his family, particularly caring for his mother after his father died. He called me the brother he never had and I suspect he used that expression a lot."
Majerus died Saturday at 64 after a lengthy battle with heart disease and a career filled with NCAA successes at Marquette, Ball State, Utah and Saint Louis. He was likewise close to Denver Nuggets coach George Karl and Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, meeting Rivers as a kid and calling him "Doc" before anyone after seeing him at a Marquette summer camp in Dr. J T-shirt.
"That's a tough one for me," Rivers said Saturday in Milwaukee, where his Celtics played the Bucks. "He's the one that gave me my name. ... I knew before the game that he wasn't going to make it through the night. I don't want to talk much about it."
Said Harris: "Rick hungered for the culinary arts, but did his best art on the napkins at every restaurant he visited, drawing plays and asking for everyone's input. Then in his many clinics he gave around the world -- from the USA to Serbia to Italy -- he would spend half his time giving credit to others for ideas he had had just as much a hand in developing. He was the utmost in humility, dedication and work ethic.
"I am humbled yet proud to say that he wrote the foreword to my 1994 book on defense that led in part, along with good players, to my Coach of the Year award in 1995 (with the Lakers). We will all miss his loving, jovial spirit."