What if…Hank Gathers hadn’t collapsed and died in 1990?

This is the first post in our ongoing series of the Top 10 What Ifs in college basketball history.

Some of the greatest conversations in sports are borne out of the simple question, What if?

  • What if the Portland Trailblazers had drafted Michael Jordan instead of Sam Bowie?
  • What if John Elway hadn’t forced the Colts to trade him to Denver?
  • What if Steve Bartman didn’t attend that baseball game in 2003?

Each question leads to an enticing array of scenarios – some good, and some painful.  In Portland, fans wind up counting their championship rings.  In Chicago, they simply add it to the list of horrific memories.

Every discussion though, without a doubt, is incredibly thought-provoking and fulfilling.

So in order to commemorate March Madness, we here at MSF would like to count down ten of the craziest scenarios in college basketball history.

Each hypothetical, though different, leads to a fascinating conclusion that leaves us wondering that age-old question:  What if?

In this post, we lead things off somberly with #10:

What if…

Hank Gathers hadn’t died after tomahawking it home against the Portland Pilots?


Hank Gathers tragically passed away in 1990 during a WCC tournament quarterfinal game against Portland,

Let’s start with some numbers:

  •  122.4 – The number of points per game Loyola Marymount averaged during the 1990 season.  Needless to say, this is still a record.
  • 33 and 14 – The numbers of points and rebounds Hank Gathers averaged the year before, becoming one of the only players in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring and rebounding in the same year.
  • 7 – The number of times LMU broke 140 in a game during the 1990 season.
  • 331 – The number of total points scored between LMU and United States International on January 31, 1989.
  • 12 – The number of times an LMU player broke 40 in a game during the 1990 season.
  • 3 – The number of free throws Bo Kimble attempted and made left-handed during a thrilling tournament run.

The numbers are just staggering.  Every time I look, they get more and more unbelievable.

The story, on the other hand, is tragic.  You know it well.

“The Guru of Go,” Paul Westhead, had created a new style of basketball that was taking the nation by storm.  By pressing constantly, jacking up quick threes, and running for 40 minutes, LMU was breathtaking to watch.  Led by their two seniors who had played together since high school, LMU was poised to make an exciting run in the NCAA Tournament.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Hank Gathers collapsed on the court, mid-game, and died.  Gathers had collapsed earlier in the year against UCSB, but he decided that the medicine he was given was impacting his game in a negative way.

Current Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, then a player for the Portland Pilots, was the closest player to him.  The world wept for its fallen basketball hero.

Undeterred, Gathers’ best friend Bo Kimble led the #11-seed Lions all the way to the Elite Eight, where they ended up losing to a stacked UNLV squad.  And in every single tournament game, Kimble chose to shoot his first free throw left-handed as a tribute to his friend.

Related: Bo Kimble’s free throw tribute to Hank Gathers came in at #9 on our list of the 10 most memorable March Madness moments ever.

Gathers, who had been a terrible free throw shooter, had occasionally shot them left-handed, trying to improve somehow.  The nation held its breath and watched with goosebumps as Kimble sank every last try.


The event was indeed tragic, but the possible ramifications are endless.

First, had Gathers not died, LMU’s season would have obviously ended differently.

LMU had been knocked out of the Dance the year before as a 12-seed but had been gaining credibility as the 1990 season progressed.  They had given UNLV all that they could handle in a breathtaking season-opener.  Kimble and Gathers were both seniors, and Gathers was being projected as a sure-fire lottery pick.

Even without Gathers, LMU made it to the Elite Eight.  Could they have been Butler before  Butler?  The possibility was legitimate.

But it goes further.

Let’s say LMU’s season DID end with a trip to the Final Four.  What happens to Paul Westhead?

Remember, Westhead had already won an NBA Championship with the Magic Johnson-led Lakers in 1980.  After being forced out by Mr. Buss, he struggled with the pre-Jordan Bulls before heading to LMU where he had success.

So if you are keeping track, Westhead’s career had gone as follows:

  • Tremendous success with great players in LA including one championship.
  • Failure with terrible players in Chicago.
  • Success with great players at LMU.

Did his system work?  Could you be successful by playing this new style of basketball?  Was Westhead a good coach?

All signs pointed to yes, so long as he had the right players.

Of course, you know that Westhead ended up coaching the Denver Nuggets for two years.  His “Enver” Nuggets (no D for defense) ended up averaging 120 points a game…but giving up 130.

He was never given another chance in the pros or major college basketball again.

Looking back now, are we certain that the basketball brains were “right” about Paul Westhead?  If he had the right players, would his system have really been such an outright failure?

Would we have given him more of a chance had he been the coach with an NBA and an NCAA Title (or Final Four berth)?  We will never know.

But even further than Paul Westhead, what about the system?

Westhead’s teams famously strove to shoot the ball in the first ten seconds of the shot clock.  His teams also thrived on shooting the three ball.

Does that sound at all similar to another coach who ended up making his bones in the same portion of the country?

As Mike D’Antoni proved, with the right players, “Seven Seconds or Less” can work.  Unfortunately for basketball, especially the NBA, we had to wait ten years to see it.

As the 90s progressed, Michael Jordan fooled the world into thinking that individuals won championships.  As soon as he retired, the NBA went into a terrible nose-dive of isolation-based, one-on-one, boring basketball.

It wasn’t until D’Antoni, Nash, and the Suns brought back the fast-paced team-style of play that the NBA finally started becoming watchable again.

Who knows…

  • Had Gathers not tragically died, Loyola Marymount may have made the Final Four.
  • Had LMU made the Final Four, Westhead may have been given a bigger chance in the NBA.
  • Had Westhead gotten the right players, his system may have been successful.
  • And had his system been successful, the NBA may not have become unwatchable for nearly a half-decade in the absence of Jordan.

All because Gathers was stricken with an abnormal heartbeat and decided to forgo his medicine on game days.


Hank Gathers (photo via Wikipedia)

Rest in peace Hank.

What if…


Top 10 College Basketball What Ifs of All-Time Series (All)

10. What if Hank Gathers hadn’t died in the middle of a game?
9. What if Christian Laettner had been suspended for stomping on Aminu Timberlake?
8. What if Houston hadn’t been upset by NC State?
7. What if the NCAA rules had been different for Pete Maravich?
6. What if Chris Webber hadn’t called timeout?
5. What if Gordon Hayward’s shot hadn’t rimmed out?
4. What if Coach K had been fired from Duke after 3 seasons?
3. What if LeBron had gone to college and the one-and-done rule was never instituted?
2. What if Kentucky had beaten Texas Western?
1. What if there wasn’t a snow storm to keep John Wooden from going to Minnesota?

About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. Kurt Allen says:

    Spoelstra was a Portland Pilot, what a nugget!!! Terrell Lowery wound up with a decent career in MLB…

  2. R.I.P. Hank Gathers.

  3. R.I.P. Hank Gathers.

  4. Hello there, I’m having trouble trying to change the settings for my facebook account. I personally use firefox, and when I opened up the accounts I clicked on on the key saying I desired firefox to remember my security password info. Well, I’ve now changed my mind and wish to remove firefox from knowing how my information. Does anyone know how to do that? Please help if you do. Thanks..

  5. I want specific guidelines on how to link my blog page effectively. Should my blog page be based on my internet site, or may i add to sites on related sites? I am pretty lost at the moment, I essentially need a blogging tour guide fundamentals.

  6. I use some videos that state “includes 3rd party content” and more that state “blocked in some countries” (due to copyright).. Is it still possible for myself to become a partner (considering I have all of the additional requirements filled).

  7. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all people you really recognise what you are speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Please also discuss with my web site =). We will have a link alternate agreement between us!

  8. Can computer engineers in the philippines have the ability to have a licensure test?

  9. Excellent domain that is manipulating it sights to my main site. I want to build a wordpress site on that domain but i cant access my admin intended for wordpress because it just diverts me to my primary site. I don’t desire to take my domain away redirect till the wordpress site is done. So what do i do?. It is redirected thru my registrar. How might i sign in with my IP?.

  10. I just could not go away your website prior to suggesting that I really loved the standard information a person supply in your visitors? Is going to be again incessantly in order to check out new posts

  11. How do you make firefox make use of your existing installation of Flash?

  12. Now i’m excellent at financial planning, and giving advice about weather to buy certain items or cut back. how do i start a site giving out this advice?.

  13. Hey there. A few days ago I read somewhere that there is a website that has movies/songs and so on for free getting and they are not really copyrighted. I forgot the name of the website. I believe there was the term ‘nation’ in it, but I was not sure. Will anyone know about it? Thanks a lot..

  14. I have a video post in tumblr then how can I put a repost url to that? I possess already proceed to addthis but can’t say for sure how to put the code in its proper place wherein the person posts are being place with an embed this or repost this or share this. Please help..

  15. I recently did a system bring back on my computer and have yet to reload my antivirus software program. Apparently someplace along the process something known as Antivi overtook my computer and I actually can’t perform anything, not even get to my task supervisor to end this program. Any suggestions?.

  16. We are beginning a business selling various baby things which i make. And I want to start a website in order to sell all of them on. Can anyone tell me the steps that I would need to go through to do this? And what may be the cost?. Thanks..

  17. Hi there everyone,.. We are thinking of buying a new computer to run an Adobe CS4 Suite. Allow just state the Master Suite. I’m mainly going to be running Premiere, Illustrator and Photoshop. I want a computer that will completely master without any complications whatsoever. Price is not an issue, I want to do that right… I would like the computer to operate as many applications I need at the same time flawlessly with no slowing down or crashing. Any kind of ideas?.

  18. Well I began my blog page in the beginning of March, I possess 21 different entries already. How soon do you think the web crawler will certainly pickup my blog and index this into the search engines like google?.

  19. I want to know how to get the CSS code for rounded edges for my header, post background, and sidebar history! It’s for my blogspot blog. PLEASE tell me ways to get the css code!.

  20. How you can create personal radio streaming and add the radio into my blogspot? can you produce step by step?

  21. Kudos for the inspiring blog you’ve created at midwestsportsfans.com. Your enthusiasm is definitely contagious. Thanks again!

  22. Excellent limited account and an administrator accounts on Or windows 7. I would like to import all of my Opera settings from my Limited Account to my Admin Account so they are the identical..

  23. midwestsportsfans.com does it yet again! Very thoughtful site and a thought-provoking post. Thanks!

  24. What is the greatest place to start a free blog?

  25. I know there are lots of firefox addons that help take care of saving photos, but the things i is specifically looking meant for is, one that can allow me to simply paste the picture link but it will surely download the picture from that link.. Reason getting, the photos I was saving is definitely has their own individual link and never on the same page itself..

  26. What i don’t realize is actually how you are not really much more well-liked than you might be now. You are so intelligent. You realize therefore considerably relating to this subject, produced me personally consider it from a lot of varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs excellent. Always maintain it up!

  27. I am typically to blogging and i actually recognize your content. The article has really peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your site and maintain checking for brand spanking new information.

  28. Now i am interested in fashion and I wish to start a blog but I possess no idea where to start or how to get people thinking about my blog page. Any ideas welcome..

  29. 06:55:14. Appreciate the site– very informative and a lot of stuff to see!

  30. Currently it appears like Movable Type is the best blogging platform out there right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

  31. I’m just interested in style and I want to start a blog page but I use no idea where to begin or ways to get people thinking about my blog. Any suggestions welcome..

  32. Good, solid content. I just sent this on to a coworker who’s been involved in some research of her own on this subject. To show his appreciation, she just invited me to a drink! So, I should probably say: midwestsportsfans.com, thanks for the meal – LOL!

  33. Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and
    I will be waiting for your next write ups thank you once again.

  34. 9/12/2016 midwestsportsfans.com does it once again! Very informative site and a well-written article. Thanks!

  35. Excellent food blog on tumblr and I would like to add a option to make it easy for people to print my formulas. Any help? I have looked at the few places the net has up but they usually do not seem to be great nor function. Thank you..

  36. How do i make firefox to prompt me to get what to do with a file rather than automatically downloading?

  37. Quite a good read. I just now sent this on 9/12/2016 to a coworker who’s been doing a little research of his own on this subject. To show her appreciation, she just bought me dinner! So, I guess I should say: Thanks for the meal!

  38. Hey there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  39. Hi there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha
    plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours
    and I’m having difficulty finding one? Thanks
    a lot!

  40. It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I’ve read this publish and if I could I want to suggest you few attention-grabbing issues or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I desire to read even more things approximately it!

  41. Want to detailed initial course in creative writing-novel, short story, even takes on and screenplays. Written before but not published and no formal training..

  42. How to get my site at Blogspot from Thai to English?

  43. 9/15/2016 @ 15:44:39 Love this site– extremely user-friendly and much to consider!

  44. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is valuable and all. But think about if you added some
    great images or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this
    website could certainly be one of the best in its niche. Wonderful blog!

  45. What are the skills that I need to run a website business, I want to display some useful info on my site to earn money. I actually is not really talking about designing part, I am aware how to release a internet site but how to start how to get advertisements from businesses, marketing, managing, updating, customer care and there are numerous more points that we need to run a site business or any type of other business in which all of us are selling our services. Should i do any kind of course. Do I need to hire staff for it. Make sure you help thanks a lot..

  46. I want to begin a blog authored by a fictitious character activities on national politics, current occasions, news etc .. How?.

  47. you could have an ideal weblog right here! would you prefer to make some invite posts on my weblog?

  48. I’m into pictures and wish to start we have work and attracting more clients. My question is certainly how would I start starting a website exactly where people can buy my photos or get in touch with me regarding taking photos? I’m searching for a way to maximize my advertising and would really like to start a website. Any advice will be greatly valued..

  49. I’m gratified by the manner in which midwestsportsfans.com covers this kind of subject! Generally to the point, sometimes polemic, consistently thoughtful as well as thought-provoking.

  50. Hi to every one, for the reason that I am genuinely eager of reading this weblog’s post to be updated regularly.
    It carries fastidious information.

  51. Это такой хороший сайт с большим количеством полезной информации . Приходите присоединиться к нашему новый бесплатный социальный сайт, как Facebook . У нас есть группы друзей , объявления, сайт знакомств играть в игры бесплатно для всех на http://mysocialspot.ca/

  52. Yesterday, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My apple ipad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  53. I plan on starting a blog and would eventually like to bring in ad revenue, should I start out on a free website or should I buy a domain?.

  54. I’m extremely impressed together with your writing talents as neatly
    as with the format in your blog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you modify it your self?

    Anyway keep up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to
    peer a great weblog like this one these days..

  55. The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn’t disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read through, however I actually thought you would have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of moaning about something you could possibly fix if you weren’t too busy searching for attention.

  56. How frequently will Fb check for a new LiveJournal post to transfer to my notes?

  57. “Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thanks”

  58. 10/2/2016 midwestsportsfans.com does it again! Quite a thoughtful site and a thought-provoking post. Keep up the good work!

  59. It’s actually a great and helpful piece of information. I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  60. I have been planning to start a successful blog i wish to start a blogg useing the very best free blogg starting internet site…. pleez show me which one may be the best?????? \.

  61. Why is my computer producing a beeping noise and freezing on start up?

  62. Just desire to say your article is as amazing. The clarity in your post is just cool and i could assume you are an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the rewarding work.

  63. I’m just looking for a great digital camera under or about $200 with regards to blogging (as in wordpress, blogger, etc). I’m looking to get a blog which will be structured around the daily photos I actually take even though I’m not really a photographer but only carrying it out for fun. Any cool features like video would become great yet mainly I am just just looking for some thing I can consider quality photos, and that will hopefully hide my total inexperienced abilities… Thanks a lot guys!.

  64. I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative
    and entertaining, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is something too few folks are speaking
    intelligently about. I’m very happy I found this
    during my search for something concerning this.

  65. Hello? I actually run a pupil service focused website with a good no of hits. I would like to convert it to a business. Can I sign-up the website itslef as a company or must i start a organization and the website should be owned by it? What is the protocol to start a brand new website company in India? Please clarify each stage in detail because I are totally new for this field..

  66. Hey, thanks for the blog article. Really Great.

  67. Great, thanks for sharing this blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Cool.

  68. I loved your post.Thanks Again. Awesome.

  69. Hello, I read your blogs regularly. Your writing style is
    witty, keep it up!

  70. In my view, midwestsportsfans.com does a good job of dealing with issues of this type. While often deliberately polemic, the information is more often than not thoughtful and challenging.

  71. I really like and appreciate your blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

  72. midwestsportsfans.com does it yet again! Very perceptive site and a thought-provoking article. Nice work!

  73. Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO. So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.You have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at. Seo Plugin

  74. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here.

    The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter
    stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an edginess over
    that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.

  75. I savor, cause I discovered just what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

  76. Appreciate this post. Will try it out.

  77. An intriguing discussion is worth comment. I do believe
    that you need to publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but
    usually people don’t talk about such issues. To the next!
    Kind regards!!

  78. I truly appreciate this blog post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

  79. What i don’t understood is if truth be told how you are not
    actually much more well-preferred than you
    might be now. You’re very intelligent. You recognize therefore significantly relating to this subject, made me in my opinion imagine it from a
    lot of numerous angles. Its like men and women aren’t interested except it is one thing to do with Girl gaga!
    Your own stuffs excellent. Always handle it up!

  80. I have always been looking to get creative composing training(novel writing), cause you can only teach yourself a lot until you will need outside help!.. Has anyone had any kind of positive experience with such something that they might recommend?.

  81. Can I make use of Joomla to update a purely HTML coded site (I suggest a website that is not designed using Joomla)?

  82. It is really a great and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  83. I developed a joomla site on my localhost. Now I want to upload this to GoDaddy. How do I do this?

  84. On my friend’s sites they have added me on their blog page rolls, yet mine constantly sits at the end of the list and does not list when I post like it does for others. Is a setting that I have to change or is this a selection that they have made?.

  85. I would really like to know if there is a way to post short tales, and ongoing episodes for the story on the web and that it gets legitimate copyright laws on a site. I want to stay away from my materials to get copyright each time I make an upgrade to my stories. In essence that I want to enjoy getting online feedback and not get stolen from..

  86. I should add that I’m not really that specialized, so a remedy that is easy to use would be appropriate of the two… The website works in a similar way to gumtree’s classified ads. In the event that this is possible would I actually also be in a position to add a charging mechanism pertaining to the ads using Joomla or WordPress… Any help would be much appreciated… Thank you..

  87. I would like to pursue a major in creative writing, and finally become a hype writer, but my query is, besides teaching english (which We NEVER picture myself doing), what will there be for someone with a creative writing degree to do just before they have got written any books. My friend says a qualification in creative writing is like signing up to work at Starbuck’s until i actually get published, is this the situation?.

  88. How do you protect your cyberspace content from copyright infringement?

  89. Exactly what are some innovative writing games to make use of for junior high learners?

  90. The right way to create very own radio loading and add the radio into my blogspot? can you give me step by step?

  91. Nice blog right here! Additionally your site loads up very fast!
    What host are you the use of? Can I get
    your associate link for your host? I want my site loaded up as
    fast as yours lol

  92. I am generally to blogging and i definitely appreciate your content. The post has genuinely peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your web site and preserve checking for new facts.

Speak Your Mind