The Lopes men’s basketball team won 23 games during the regular season. Unfortunately, they didn’t win one in the postseason, losing to Chaminade in the PacWest Tournament by 13, then to Seattle Pacific by 26 in the West Regional.
Those losses pretty much sealed former head coach Russ Pennell’s fate, as he stepped down from his post shortly after the game.
It didn’t take Grand Canyon long to find Pennell’s replacement, as the University introduced it’s newest head coach, Dan Majerle, to the world on Monday.
Majerle, as Suns fans should vividly remember, was Alvin Gentry’s assistant coach, but was passed over for the interim head coaching job when Gentry was fired.
No use crying over spilled milk, because Majerle finally got his head coaching gig with the Lopes, and he said when the University came calling to gauge his interest in the position, it was a “no-brainer” that it was the right move for him.
“I’m happy about it,” Majerle said. “This is a great university, a growing university and an opportunity to stay in Phoenix, to be a head coach, which is what I wanted to do.”
Majerle says the Lopes moving to Division I next year was “big,” and weighed heavily in the school’s favor when he sat down and really thought about it.
Even though things didn’t work out quite the way Majerle thought they would with the Suns, he kept up hope that one day he would be a head coach in the NBA, whether in Phoenix or somewhere else.
Now that he’s in charge of the Lopes, Majerle says his mind is as far as it can be from the NBA, and strictly on Grand Canyon.
“I’m so happy to be here, and I plan to be here for a very long time,” Majerle said. “I wouldn’t take this if I didn’t think I was gonna be successful.”
Majerle took the high road when talking about his relationship and time with the Suns and the fans.
“I wish them (Suns) nothing but the greatest of success and luck,” Majerle said. “I have nothing but love for the Phoenix community and the Suns fans.”
The move to Division I won’t be an easy one for the Lopes, and Majerle knows that well in advance. He says his focus right now is on putting together the best staff he can possibly assemble, along with finding the best players that will allow him to win right off the bat.
Majerle says his love for coaching in the NBA has already translated over to his new job with Grand Canyon. He believes that love for the job will be directly responsible for wins come next season and beyond.
“I get to coach good young men who have a world of potential and want to get better, and I think that’s where I’ll thrive,” Majerle said.
Recruiting at the college level is very hard and demanding work. But anyone who’s followed Majerle over his 14 year pro career knows that he worked harder than any of his peers to be great, and it showed in his play.
Now he’s going to rub that off on his new team.
“I’ve always believed that, as a coach, you gotta practice the way you play, work hard in practice and then when it comes down to playing games, the players ultimately win games,” Majerle said. “It’ll be hard, it’ll be difficult, but we’re gonna play extremely hard, we’ll be in great shape.”
Majerle says he won’t know the true identity of his team, nor the style he’ll want them to run until he gets his players and coaches assembled.
“I’ve always loved to play high-paced, high-speed, aggressive defensively,” Majerle said. “It’s gonna depend on the type of players I get.”