Just when it looked like Rick Majerus' name wouldn't be connected to any more open coaching jobs this year, the University of Wisconsin decided to let interim coach Brad Soderberg go earlier this week.
That move thrust the Utah coach's name to the top of the list at Wisconsin, which is looking for a big-name coach with a history of success. That would seem to fit Majerus, and he makes sense for the job in Madison since he is a Wisconsin native.
However, while it might make sense in Wisconsin, Majerus seems more content at Utah than he has in recent years when he considered taking jobs at San Diego State, Arizona State, Notre Dame and Texas, before turning each down.
More than in recent years, Majerus has indicated he plans to be back at Utah next year and has shown little interest in other jobs such as UNLV, where he never formally interviewed.
Contacted in Salt Lake Tuesday afternoon just before he was to leave for Wisconsin, Majerus gave his usual lines, "I never comment on a job," and, "I'll never say I'm never going to leave here."
However during the course of a 20-minute conversation, Majerus gave every indication he was planning to return to Utah next season. He talked about setting up meetings with individual players, showing concern for certain players' academic standing and being excited about coaching his team prior to its European trip in late May.
"I'll be back here to start practices in May," he said at one point.
Also, two sources close to Majerus strongly believe he will coach at Utah next year, one saying, "I honestly believe he'll be back." Two reasons cited for Majerus' likely return were his loyalty to his players and his indebtedness to the University of Utah for accommodating him this year to take time off while his mother was ill.
Some folks believe the Wisconsin job is logical for Majerus because of his close ties to his native state. One of his closest friends is Milwaukee Bucks' coach George Karl, and Majerus would be closer to his cancer-stricken mother if he moved back to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin athletics director Pat Richter sounded as if he was after Majerus when he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "I think that you want to have someone that's got a good track record, a good academic record and someone that, hopefully, maybe has a little bit of an emotional attachment to Wisconsin, (not) someone that's going to be in looking for the next place to go."
Majerus did say he hasn't talked to Wisconsin officials about the job.
"They throw my name out for jobs I don't even know about," Majerus said. "No one's talked to me (about the Wisconsin job), and I haven't spoken to anyone about it, and I've been in Wisconsin a lot."
However, Tuesday night Majerus acknowledged on a Milwaukee sports radio show that he would probably discuss the Wisconsin job opening with Richter while in the state.
"I think it's a good job. Obviously, Wisconsin's a great place to live and I probably will have a conversation with Pat," Majerus told WTMJ Radio in Milwaukee. "But right now, the most immediate and pressing concern I have . . . is to get together with my mother and to consult with her physicians."
Majerus told the Deseret News the purpose of his trip to Wisconsin this week was to be with his mother, who he said was doing well right now, and he's also looking forward to seeing two of his ex-players, Michael Doleac and Hanno Motolla this weekend. Doleac's Orlando team plays at Milwaukee Friday, while Motolla and Atlanta play Sunday at Milwaukee.
"My biggest interest in Wisconsin right now is taking Hanno to my mom's house Saturday night," said Majerus, who will be in Minneapolis next week for the Final Four.
Soderberg, who went 16-10 after taking over for Dick Bennett three games into the season, said he felt Richter was making a mistake by veering from the system that produced four NCAA tournament berths in five years, one more than the school had before Bennett and Soderberg arrived in 1995.
But Soderberg added: "If he's able to get Majerus here, then he's making the right decision."
Richter said he wanted a coach of national fame, a top-notch recruiter who could lure the best athletes. Preferably, the new man will have Wisconsin ties.
Majerus, a native of Sheboygan, Wis., coached at Marquette and was an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Another coach who fits Richter's criteria is University of Wisconsin alumnus Ben Braun, the head coach at Cal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.