I watched the Guru of Go which was an ESPN 30 on 30 about Paul Westhead’s style of basketball. To sum up the style, it’s a get the ball up the floor as quickly as possible and fire when ready. The idea was to out work your opponents until they are physically exhausted and break. The Loyola Marymount team from ’87-’90 was the quintessential squad to work the formula. The team in 1990 still holds the record for most points per game with an average of 122.4.
Loyola Marymount is a small school with enrollment under 10k located in Los Angeles, Ca. Bo Kimble and Hank Gathers were Philly guys who found their way to Loyola and learned under Westhead. In the ’89 season, Hank Gathers led the NCAA in scoring at 32 ppg. The ’90 season brought more success until Gathers collapsed after shooting a free throw. The doctors checked him out and ran many tests and had him put on medication for an irregular heartbeat. Unfortunately on the medication, Gathers wasn’t the same player which was evident in a game vs St Joe’s where he had a mere 1 1st half point. Bo Kimble ended up hitting a half court buzzer beater to finish with 54 points and the W.
As the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament neared, Gathers did not show up for repeated appointments to test if the reduced medication was still suppressing the arrhythmias. It was suspected Gathers was not taking any dosage on game days. On Sunday, March 4, 1990, in Los Angeles, he collapsed again with 13:34 left in the first half of the WCC tournament semifinal game against the Portland Pilots. He had just scored on his trademark tomahawk dunk on an alley-oop pass from point guard Terrell Lowery that put the Lions up 25–13. He collapsed a yard or two away from Pilots point guard Erik Spoelstra. He attempted to get up, telling the trainers, “I don’t want to lay down!”, then shortly after stopped breathing. Gathers died soon thereafter at a nearby hospital at 6:55PM PST. He was 23 years old
Bo Leads the Team
The Loyola team decided to continue to play the season despite the heavy hearts and played the ’90 NCAA tournament. A touching story from their run was Bo Kimble shooting a left handed foul shot in tribute to Hank. This was because one part of Hank’s game was his weak free throw shooting. At some point in the season he decided to start shooting his foul shots left handed. Bo did the same the first time he got fouled.
Loyola beat a stellar Michigan squad containing the Fab 5 in ’90 but eventually succumbed to the eventual NCAA champions UNLV. A remarkable run considering the heartache. After the season ended, the Gathers family started suing anyone involved in Hank’s death, one of them being coach Westhead. They ended settling with the University for 1.4 million but weird times indeed.