|Saint Louis' new coach keeps grinding after biggest win|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 18 January 2008 11:43|
Minutes after the program's first victory over a ranked opponent in nearly four years, the Billikens' new coach was thinking about the work to be done, not about the progress made in only one week.
``It was nice,'' Majerus said after Saint Louis led nearly wire to wire in a 68-61 victory over No. 23 Rhode Island on Thursday. ``But it's one win, it's one night, and Sunday comes quick.''
The 59-year-old Majerus has a career record of 432-154 without a losing season and he's the program's undisputed, rotund star, meriting a Sports Illustrated profile this week. So far, his comeback has been confounding.
Saint Louis is a nondescript 10-7 overall and 1-2 in the Atlantic 10 heading into Sunday's home game against Temple. And amid a season that has seen its share of highs and lows, Majerus has entertained with rambling postgame discourses that often touch on his glory years at Utah, former players who showed up to see the old coach (``Anybody here got a camera?'') and the growing pains of his new post.
Among Thursday's gems: Majerus believes Saint Louis is the smallest Division I team if he doesn't have to count 7-foot Bryce Husak. He also has his own statistics, thank you. Majerus frowns at giving full credit for rebounds off missed free throws, reasoning that a player can often handle the task flat-footed, and he believes blocked shots should not be counted as shot attempts.
To wit: Tommie Liddell III was 1-for-12 from the field in the horrible loss to George Washington in which Saint Louis managed only seven baskets and 20 points, but had three shots blocked.
``I know he was 1-for-9, and if you want to look at the films and contest me, I'll take you on,'' Majerus told a reporter. ``And I mean that with no disrespect.''
The Billikens shot 54.5 percent - counting two attempts that were blocked - got a season-best 22 points from Liddell and harassed Rhode Island to season lows for scoring and shooting percentage.
``They played very physical, very aggressive,'' Rams coach Jim Baron said. ``They used their bodies probably as good as anybody that we've played against.''
Last Saturday, the Billikens took No. 14 Dayton to overtime at home before losing. But they made only seven baskets all night at George Washington, Kent State clobbered them by 41, Boston College held them to 39 points and they lost at home to Sam Houston State.
Perhaps that's why Majerus wasn't interested in discussing how far the program had come since hitting bottom. He had Temple film to study.
``I never think that way, I honest to God don't,'' Majerus said. ``I'm such a simpleton, and I mean this sincerely, that I just coach the moment.''
Players had precious little time for celebrating.
``I put a curfew on them,'' Majerus said. ``I need to move on. I want to have a good practice, because cumulatively you have good practices and then you have better games and you get better.
``There's so much work to do and really so little time.''
That's been Majerus' mantra from the beginning. He's often said that these are not his players, and he's not the coach they signed letters of intent to play for. And he's not been bashful with publicly criticizing players.
The year started with Liddell, the top returning scorer from a 20-win team that did not make it to the postseason, in the doghouse for defensive shortcomings. Liddell's shortcomings remained a topic even after the junior forward was 9-for-12 and hit a late 3-pointer to help hold off Rhode Island.
``He has so much to learn ... and he's doing a better job of that,'' Majerus said. ``He's trying to soldier up and play with his body and he's very challenged in that regard, and he's working.''
Husak is another frequent target, hearing it for timid play earlier in the season and for a rusty effort on Thursday after missing most of the week following an elbow to the head in practice.
Majerus has softened some, too. He delegated some offensive strategy to his assistants before the Rhode Island game and the result was a more aggressive look with occasional fastbreaks and easy baskets against a school that had much better size across the front line.
``I loosened up a little bit offensively and let the assistant coaches take a little bit more of a posture in practice,'' Majerus said. ``I'm too exacting and too precise. That helped us. We try to break because we need to get opportunistic baskets.''