Statue memorializes fallen LMU basketball star Hank Gathers

Story by Gary Walker | Photos by Luis Chavez

Hank Gathers and his band of basketball brothers catapulted the Loyola Marymount University Lions into the national consciousness with their historic run to the Elite Eight of NCAA basketball tournament.

Nearly 30 years after Gathers collapsed and died on the court during a semifinals match in March 1990, the Lions honored his legacy by unveiling a statue of Gathers outside LMU’s Gersten Pavilion prior to last Saturday’s final home game of the season. The larger-than-life bronze sculpture depicts Gathers leaping in the air, ball in his right hand, about to make a slam dunk.

Leading the countdown to the unveiling was Bo Kimble, who led the high-scoring, fast-breaking team alongside Gathers. Gathers’ mother Lucille, who made the trip from Philadelphia with three of her children, wept as she gazed at the statue of her son.

“We’ve been anxiously waiting to see his statute. Wow,” Gathers’ brother Derrick said.

Paul Westhead, who coached the Lions from 1985 to 1990 after two seasons coaching the L.A. Lakers, remembered Gathers as a player with intensity who inspired teammates with his passion and determination. He spoke of the first memorial for Gathers 30 years ago at Gersten Pavilion.

“We said goodbye to Hank over there. I told him, ‘Good night, sweet prince, / And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.’ … And Hank was a sweet prince,” Westhead recounted, quoting Horatio in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

Westhead also spoke fondly of how Gathers could freeze anyone with a look he called “the scowl” — “… Even me,” the former coach said with a chuckle as listeners laughed. “If I dared to take him out of a game, I’d get the scowl.”

“Welcome to Hank’s House!” LMU President Timothy Law Snyder told Gathers’ former teammates, whom the school honored with a special halftime ceremony. “You captured the sports world after a tragedy and authored one of the greatest sports stories of all time. … This is Hank’s House, and LMU will always be Hank’s House.”