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OTHER REACTIONS : WCC Cancels Tournament; TV's Footage Is Dramatic

March 05, 1990|JIM HODGES and LARRY STEWART | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

The West Coast Conference canceled its basketball tournament late Sunday night in the wake of the death of Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers.

Gathers collapsed with 13 minutes 34 seconds to play in the first half and the game against Portland was never resumed. Loyola, which won the WCC regular-season title, was granted the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

There seemed to be little sentiment for the tournament going on.

Portland player Matt Houle said: "I saw him try to get up. I just hoped he would be OK. Now we really don't care what happens with the game or the tournament."

ESPN, which had been scheduled to telecast tonight's final, was uncertain as to substitute programming.

"We at ESPN are all very saddened by what happened," Chris LaPlaca said.

Chris Berman, host of ESPN's SportsCenter 8:30 segment Sunday night, warned viewers they may want to turn their heads. "If you're a little squeamish, you might not want to watch this," he said.

What followed was a slam dunk by Hank Gathers and then, a few moments later, Gathers collapsing at center court.

ESPN had a crew at the game, mainly to get advance footage for the championship game, to be televised by the cable network the next night. The crew ended up getting a lot more than just basketball highlights.

ESPN dispatched reporter Chris Myers to Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital, where he delivered live reports and interviews.

ESPN also had footage of LaSalle's Lionel Simmons, a former high school teammate and longtime friend, getting the news of Gathers' death.

Simmons was taken off the floor late in La Salle's game against Siena in Albany, N.Y. He broke down, cried and could play no further. The announcers at that game could be heard saying simply, "Simmons has suddenly become very emotional, and we don't know why."

They, along with the rest of the nation, would soon find out.

Gathers and Bo Kimble, besides attending classes at Loyola Marymount, also worked as interns at Channel 5 during the fall semester that ended in January. Both planned to someday become sportscasters.

Channel 5's Ed Arnold, reached prior to the 10 o'clock news Sunday night, found talking difficult.

"You'll have to pardon me," Arnold said, fighting to keep his composure. "I'm suppose to talk about this on the air tonight, and I don't know if I'll be able to."

Arnold took a couple of deep breaths. "Hank Gathers was simply the sweetest, nicest young man I'd ever met," he said.

During their internship, the two worked at the station on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

"I saw them both after (Saturday's game against Gonzaga). Both were in great moods, kidding around and having a good time.

"This is going to be a very tough story for me to do."

Shortly after Gathers collapsed, a member of the Loyola Marymount faculty, Fr. Rich Rolfs, fainted in the stands. It was feared that he, too, had suffered some sort of heart attack, but he had only fainted and was fine after being attended to.

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