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Rick Majerus: ESPN’s Wojciechowski remembers a special friend

I knew Gene Wojciechowski and Dan McGrath were having a tough day Saturday when I heard the news that Rick Majerus passed away.

Gene, a columnist for ESPN.com, and Dan, my former sports editor at the Chicago Tribune, were extremely close to the basketball coach.

Gene assisted Majerus with his autobiography. It’s a fun read, and I know from his stories that Gene had even more fun working with Majerus on the book.

Gene wrote Saturday: “To this day, I think the only reason he agreed to let me write his autobiography is because it would help pay for my kids’ college tuition. That was Majerus.”

Dan, meanwhile, dates back to Marquette with Majerus. He talked of him often and I can remember on several occasions that he had to leave the office to hook up with Majerus as he breezed through Chicago.

Through Gene and Dan, I got to meet Majerus a few times. He was as you would imagine him to be: Friendly, fun and completely unpretentious for a coach who accomplished so much in the game.

Gene and Dan’s relationship with Majerus underscores the best thing about being a sportswriter. It isn’t about the games. It’s about the people you meet.

I know Gene and Dan feel fortunate today that as a sportswriters they got to meet Rick Majerus.

Gene did a wonderful tribute to Majerus. Here is an excerpt.

Majerus was 10 of the smartest people I’ve ever known. The Jesuits educated him well. He was a coach, but he could have been a councilman. He lived in a hotel during much of his career, but his suites often were filled with books. He’d call at night just to talk about a Maureen Dowd column he had read an hour earlier.

He won games, lots and lots of them, but I swear he cared more about seeing his players get diplomas than victories.

He could charm an entire national press corps. He could alienate an entire local media corps. He could hold court. He could hold grudges.

Majerus didn’t suffer fools. He was brilliant, complex and demanding to a fault. He also was loyal, caring and giving to a fault.

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