I was sitting courtside on an April night in 1990 when Hank Gathers, one of my all-time favorite college players, collapsed and died on the Gersten Pavillion floor during a WCC Tournament game against Portland….
Just seconds before, Hank caught a lob pass from Terrell Lowery and dunked with two hands, bringing the sell out crowd to its feet. The noise was deafening and I was thinking this Loyola Marymount team could win the NCAA Championship….
As Hank jogged back to be part of the Lions vaunted full court press, he took a step forward and fell hard to the floor….
I was also in attendance a month before, when Gathers collapsed against UCSB, so expected him to again get to his feet and make his way to the bench….
But this time, Hank remained on the floor and began convulsing. He was in full cardiac arrest and the crowd, which was so loud seconds before, was eerily silent. His mother began yelling for someone to help as the trainers frantically moved him onto a stretcher and into an ambulance….
A few hours later, it was announced that the great Hank Gathers had passed away…. And not a day goes by that I don’t think about him….
At the time, I was a high school coach and had a friend on the LMU team; so went to practice from time-to-time and attended every home game of Hank and teammate Bo Kimble’s career. I installed the Paul Westhead run-and-gun style and will be eternally grateful to Paul and the university for allowing me to intrude….
Since I was acquainted with Hank and the rest of the players, I never thought I would feel as bad as the night he died; until I heard the horrible news that Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart had been killed in an automobile accident early Wednesday morning….
Yes, I wasn’t on the scene, as I was when Hank collapsed, but felt the same kind of gut wrenching hurt I did back in 1990….
I didn’t get to know Nick, outside of some brief conversations in Arizona during spring training, but could tell instantly he was a young man with a good head on his shoulders. Adenhart was polite, talented and confident in his ability; traits which had him destined for an outstanding career…. Evidence of which was his performance on Tuesday night; six shutout innings against the Oakland A’s in his 2009 debut….
At 22, Nick showed guts, poise and tremendous stuff; and I was looking forward to watching him for years to come….
But it was all taken away early Wednesday morning, when some drunken fool barreled through a red light and killed Nick and two companions. All the hard work recovering from Tommy John surgery was gone and a young, shining star was extinguished….
It would be easy to curse the driver who killed Nick and spend my time calling for the death penalty, but that won’t bring Adenhart back. Hopefully the judicial system will put this murderer away for the rest of his life and all of us will take a vow to never again drink and drive….
I’m going to remember Nick as that nice kid I met at spring training and that tough kid who struck out Jason Giambi on back-to-back change ups to get out of a jam on Tuesday night….
The kid was great, throwing six shutout innings, and that’s how I’m going to remember him….
Rest in Peace, Nick, and God bless you and your family….