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Grand Canyon fires head coach Dan Majerle

The former Suns legend guided GCU through its transition period, but could not make it to the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Grand Canyon Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Majerle is no longer GCU’s head basketball coach, according to a Grand Canyon University press release from March 12.

The Phoenix Suns Ring of Honor member is coming off his worst season, in which he finished 13-17 and finished tied for fifth in the WAC with an 8-8 record. It was his only sub-. 500 finish as a head coach.

GCU fired Majerle the same day the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) concerns and other leagues like the MLB and NHL postponed their seasons indefinitely. Earlier that day, the WAC canceled its conference tournament, prohibiting Majerle and his team from competing for an NCAA bid.

GCU representatives made these comments in their press release.

”We have made the decision to move in a new direction with our men’s basketball program,” GCU President Brian Mueller said. “We wish Coach Majerle the best of luck in his future endeavors.”

“GCU has become a premier mid-major basketball destination with its resources, facilities, and student and community support,” GCU Strategic Advisor and Phoenix sports icon Jerry Colangelo said. “We look forward to the future of the program under the direction of the new head coach.”

Former New Mexico State and UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies was immediately named the interim head coach.

Majerle was the face of GCU basketball for seven years. Majerle held a 136-86 overall record in 7 years as Grand Canyon’s head coach. Grand Canyon hired Majerle before the 2013-2014 season under the direction of former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo — a close advisor to GCU President Brian Mueller.

Majerle lead the charge of GCU’s transition into Division I athletics. The coach’s popularity in Phoenix helped generate public buzz and growth for the university.

Dan Majerle had a great start to his tenure, guiding GCU through one of the greatest transition periods ever. GCU won 81 games during their transition period, built a brand with their student section, and played marquee games against the likes of Kentucky, Duke, Indiana, New Mexico, San Diego State and Louisville.

GCU had a lot of momentum in their first season of postseason eligibility. The Lopes were building on their third-straight 22-win season, had built a national brand from their student section, were attracting some of the nation’s top grad transfers and became the first NCAA program to win 100 games in its first five years of existence.

Grand Canyon suffered from unfortunate circumstances this season when star TCU transfer Jaylen Fisher was declared academically ineligible, then left to pursue a professional career in Bulgaria. Then senior forward Oscar Frayer was academically ineligible. Both Frayer and Fisher were expected to be impact players for Grand Canyon this year.

Majerle struggled with player development and roster turnover several times in his tenure. Going into the 2019-20 season, Majerle lost his top recruit in school history when Tim Finke transferred to Wright State and starting guard Damari Milistead transferred to San Francisco a few months before the season. Majerle failed to developed prospects who have gone to succeed elsewhere. Former GCU center Boubacar Toure averaged 10.7 points and 9.3 rebounds for Eastern Michigan and was named to the All-MAC Defensive team this year.

Majerle guided GCU to four 20 win seasons and made two made the WAC Championship game, losing to New Mexico State both times.

Majerle’s teams struggled to play against better competition. In seven seasons, Dan Majerle went 2-11 against WAC power New Mexico State; most of those losses came by double-digits. Thunder Dan finished 5-27 against Ken Pom top 150 teams, with four of those wins were against Utah Valley. The Lopes also went 2-5 in postseason play during Majerle’s tenure, and none of those games came in the NIT or NCAA Tournament.