LOS ANGELES - Rick Majerus took a long look in the mirror and didn’t see a guy ready to become the Southern California coach.
Majerus apologized Monday for backing out of the Trojans’ basketball job less than a week after accepting it, saying he realized his health wouldn’t allow him to put in the marathon work days he has in the past.
“I made a mistake. I was blinded by this opportunity. But I’d be doing them a disservice and myself a disservice. Right now I just can’t bring it,” a glum Majerus said at a news conference. “I looked at myself and thought that I was a phony.
“I realized they weren’t getting the guy they hired. I’m not fit enough for this job for my standards.”
Majerus said he didn’t think he was being fair to the players or athletic director Mike Garrett.
“They weren’t going to get the guy who puts in 18-hour days,” Majerus said.
Majerus, 56, has had heart problems and an ongoing battle with his weight, which has been around 370 pounds. He cited health concerns when he retired as Utah’s coach last January after 15 seasons. He has been working as an analyst for ESPN.
“I have a fitness issue. It all relates directly to my weight,” he said. “I’ve got a problem. I know I need to do something. And I’m going to try hard to do something about it. ... I don’t want to have a Rick Majerus memorial game.”
“I think my health is good for probably anything other than to be an astronaut or a coach. I swam a mile and a quarter this morning just because I was so anxiety-ridden.”
Assistant Jim Saia, made the interim head coach after Henry Bibby was fired four games into the season, will remain in the post for the rest of this season, Garrett said. Majerus was not scheduled to take over until April 1, although he was going to work on recruiting until then.
Garrett said the search for a coach will resume, although he has set no timetable.
He was disappointed that Majerus changed his mind, but was still impressed after spending time with him.
“This is the shortest-lived head coaching job, I think, in the history of NCAA basketball,” Garrett said. “It’s a tremendous loss for USC. He’s the best.”
Majerus apologized several times during the news conference held in the same room where his hiring was announced last Wednesday.
“My selfishness in wanting this job and then my stupidity in thinking that I could undertake this, put Mike Garrett and (assistant AD) Daryl Gross in an untenable position. My apologies,” Majerus said.
“No one’s hurt here. They’re going to get a great coach, get a coach better than I am, probably.”
Majerus, who plans to return to his ESPN job, guided Utah to the NCAA title game in 1998, losing to Kentucky, one of the Utes’ 10 NCAA tournament appearances during his tenure. He earlier coached at Ball State, Marquette and was an assistant with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
Pepperdine coach Paul Westphal, a former USC star, and former Iowa State, Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets coach Tim Floyd are considered among the leading candidates for the USC job, and Bobby Knight would be interested, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. The Los Angeles Times reported that Floyd has been contracted by USC and is the leading candidate.
Saia last saw Majerus over dinner Wednesday night, when they discussed the program’s future.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the meeting suddenly became contentious. Majerus wanted to use current coaches on staff for recruiting purposes even though he had said he would stay away from the team until April 1, the newspaper reported. Saia would have been left short-handed to the point of coaching the team by himself despite being assured by Garrett that the program was his in the interim.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
'Selfish and stupid'
Dec. 21: Rick Majerus apologizes for accepting, then rejecting the Southern California coaching job.
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