Hank’s House

Many universities commemorate their great athletes who’ve worn the jersey, and fans recall their favorite player’s deeds for decades. But Hank Gathers is the rare player who has been remembered for three decades as much for who he was as a person as for what did while wearing the LMU No. 44.

It barely needs to be said that Gathers spearheaded an LMU men’s basketball team that set the college game ablaze with a fast-paced strategy known as “The System.” The team and its coach, Paul Westhead, later were the subject of an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary titled “Guru of Go.” But Hank’s personality as much as his prowess won him many fans. He and his teammates became beloved members of the LMU community. After Hank suddenly passed away near the end of the 1989–90 season, the team became a favorite of basketball fans across the country as they progressed in the 1990 NCAA Tournament, honoring Hank all along the way.

At LMU, Hank’s memory remains strong. “This is Hank’s House!” is a fan chant still heard during games. One gets the sense that Hank Gathers was so beloved that he is not only remembered, his death is mourned still — a rare tribute for an athlete who died 30 years ago.

“Hank was an extraordinary player, a formidable opponent and a fierce competitor who elevated LMU basketball to unprecedented heights,” said Craig Pintens, LMU athletic director.

LMU is honoring Hank Gathers this year with the sculpting of a statue of him as a tribute. The work will be unveiled on Feb. 29, 2020, in front of Gersten Pavilion. The timing coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Lions’ legendary 1989–90 basketball season, in which the team overcame Gathers’ tragic collapse and death during a conference playoff game and launched an inspired run deep into the NCAA tournament, reaching the Elite Eight and an opponent, UNLV, that went on to win the national championship.

The sculpture has been created by the Fine Arts Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany, located in Highwood, Illinois, outside of Chicago. The firm is responsible for notable statues of well-known people in sports, including Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and David Beckham, as well as Gordie Howe, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, Elgin Baylor and Shaquille O’Neal.

“We are thankful to Loyola Marymount University for resurrecting Hank and bringing him back to campus,” said Derrick Gathers, brother of Hank. “It is very special to our family, and we are honored that the statue will have a permanent home at LMU.”

“The story of Hank Gathers and the 1989–90 LMU basketball team is one of the greatest in sports history,” said Craig Pintens, LMU athletic director. “Hank was an extraordinary player, a formidable opponent and a fierce competitor who elevated LMU basketball to unprecedented heights. We also celebrate who Hank was off the court — dedicated to his family, loyal to his teammates and committed to his education at LMU. We are pleased to partner with the Gathers family to honor Hank’s enduring legacy with a statue, so that all who visit the bluff may be inspired by the indelible mark he left on LMU.”

The project will be funded entirely with private donations. To learn more about the statue and Gathers’ legacy, go to hank44.lmu.edu.

This article appeared in the winter 2020 issue (Vol. 9, No. 2) of LMU Magazine.