Loyola Marymount University welcomed back to campus the 1989-90 men’s basketball team that persevered through tragedy, captured the nation’s imagination and etched their achievements into their fans’ hearts.
They took the court again Saturday night for a halftime ceremony at LMU’s Gersten Pavilion. The 1989-90 Lions, stunned by the death of one of its stars, Hank Gathers, showed emotional courage and physical endurance that carried the team further into the NCAA tournament than LMU had gone before or since.
“This is a fantastic group of guys,” Bo Kimble told the Homecoming game crowd. Kimble averaged 35.3 points per game that season. The 2009-10 Lions lost to St. Mary’s College, 85-67, bringing LMU’s record to 11-12, 2-5 in conference.
The near-capacity crowd cheered each team member and coaching staff, including “the architect of the system,” head coach Paul Westhead, as they received a memento, a piece of the Gersten floor that they had played on. And a heartfelt ovation was given to Lucille Gathers Cheeseboro, Hank’s mother. “They still love the Gathers family,” she said after the ceremony. “I’m so happy to be here.”
LMU’s “Cinderella run” in the 1990 NCAA tournament was not entirely unexpected. The team averaged 122.4 points per game, an NCAA record, and scored 100 points or more in 28 of their 32 games. The death of Gathers, who collapsed on court during a West Coast Conference tournament game, was a devastating emotional blow to the team and few observers gave them much of a chance in the NCAA tournament.
But the team rose to the occasion, setting a handful of tournament records during a 149-115 victory over defending national champion Michigan. LMU advanced to the Elite Eight, before losing to eventual champion Nevada Las Vegas.
Pictured: Bo Kimble, above, Paul Westhead, right.
Posted Jan. 31, 2010