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SLU hires Majerus for basketball job

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Rick Majerus is back in coaching after a three-year absence, as he agreed Friday to a six-year contract with Saint Louis University.

An analyst with ESPN the last three years, Majerus has a career record of 422-147 with 15 postseason appearances.

"I missed it," Majerus told the AP on Friday night. "I missed practice. I missed coaching."

The school will introduce the 59-year-old Majerus at a news conference Monday morning. Majerus' first appearance is being delayed through the weekend because the school wanted to avoid competing for attention with the NFL draft and a weekend Cardinals-Cubs series.

"I am extremely excited about having a person of Rick Majerus' stature and reputation at the helm of our men's basketball team," Father Lawrence Biondi, the school president, said in a statement. "I know that we are now headed to take our men's basketball team to the next level."

The school and Majerus had been negotiating for several days, beginning not long after Brad Soderberg was fired after failing to lead the school to the NCAA tournament in any of his five seasons. SLU hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2000 and the Atlantic 10 member had an RPI of 73 at the end of last season.

"They're in a good league and about to move into a beautiful building," Majerus said. "I like the guys coming back. I just like the situation."

Majerus coached Utah to the national championship game in 1998, losing to Kentucky, and led the school to 10 NCAA appearances in 15 seasons. He also has coached at Ball State and Marquette and was an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.

"Rick and I have gotten a chance to know each other over the past week," Biondi said. "I am very impressed with all that he will bring to our men's basketball program, including his commitment to run a program that we can all be proud of."

Majerus accepted the Southern California job in December 2004 only to change his mind three days later. He had cited health reasons when he retired as Utah's coach in January 2004.

Last year, he turned down an offer to become an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets. That decision, in part, was made because he wanted to be closer to his mother in Milwaukee.

Majerus, who has lived in Milwaukee since joining ESPN, also said health is no longer an issue. He's approaching this position as his last stop in coaching.

"I don't think I'm going to go anywhere else. Maybe I'll coach until I'm 80, but I don't think I'm a (Joe) Paterno," he said, referring to the Penn State football coach.

Majerus will inherit a team that has four returning starters, losing only senior center Ian Vouyoukas. Forward Tommie Liddell, who will be a junior, led the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game.

Majerus said he's talked to two recruits signed by Soderberg about a week before he was fired, and planned to meet with both soon.

"I think Brad was a good coach, and he left the house in order," Majerus said. "You just keep passing the baton in these things."

Soderberg was fired April 17, several weeks after a 20-13 finish in his final season, and the first 20-win season of his career, failed to generate even an NIT bid. At that time the school said the move was also tied to the school's new $80.5 million arena under construction, which is about $7.5 million short of its fundraising goal.

Saint Louis hasn't had a 20-win season since 1997-98, and finished in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic 10 last season. Saint Louis was 80-74 under Soderberg and made it to the NIT his first two seasons.

A school spokesman said athletic director Cheryl Levick would be unavailable for comment until Monday.

Later Friday, the school announced that season tickets for first-time buyers had gone on sale.

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