And maybe it explains why Gathers was running sprints on the Loyola Marymount track in the minutes before the start of what would be the final basketball game of his life.
"He was running the medicine off," Prada said to Hillock.
"The real tragedy now is that Hank isn't around to put a stop to all of this—to defend himself." There is a hint of disdain in Father Dave Hagan's voice as he sits at a worn table in his North Philadelphia house, just a few blocks from the Gatherses' place. Hagan's home, purchased for $2,800 in 1972 and now valued at $650, is a humble haven for teenage boys and young adults struggling to stay out of trouble in an environment that produces little else. Hank Gathers, whose parents divorced when he was nine, was one of Father Dave's kids, as they are known in the neighborhood, and Father Dave, a Catholic priest, remains Lucille's close friend and confidant. It was he whom Derrick Gathers telephoned from the hospital to say that his older brother had died. "It has been painful to watch the evolution of all this," he says wearily. "Reading all the depositions, hearing the accusations, everything has been so painful." He pulls on his cigarette, scratches his balding scalp. "None of it brings Hank back."
And it has brought nothing but sadness and controversy to Gathers's legacy.
The tainting of that legacy began only hours after doctors at Daniel Freeman Marina Hospital in Marina del Rey pronounced Hank dead, an hour and 41 minutes after he had collapsed on the court. Loyola Marymount officials, after receiving calls from people interested in donating to a fund in Gathers's memory, quickly asked Lucille if she wanted to approve two funds to be established at a local bank in Hank's name: one to help the Gathers family with its financial difficulties, the other to be used to create a Hank Gathers scholarship at the university. But Lucille, upon the advice of family friends, including Hagan, rejected the scholarship fund. She was convinced that it would be too easy for the $25 donations to be placed in the family fund and the $2,500 checks in the school fund. So only one account was opened. At first, donations arrived from all over the country, steady and strong. In just a few days, the balance in the account totaled nearly $17,000. Then the contributions slowed to a trickle. One reason for the sudden change may have come on March 9, three days before Hank was buried, when Fagel announced, in front of 11 TV cameras, 12 microphones and two-dozen reporters, that he had been retained by the Gathers family—including Carole Livingston Gilmore, Hank's aunt—to file a $32.5 million lawsuit, claiming negligence, emotional distress and wrongful death.
"People were shocked," says one former Loyola Mary-mount athletic department official. "Not so much at the lawsuit but at the timing of it. Had they waited even a couple of days to sue and done it a little quieter, money would probably still be coming into the family's account."
Public sentiment, in fact, flipped overnight. The bad feelings continued when it was learned a few weeks later that Crump had retained two Philadelphia lawyers to represent Aaron and herself in their own wrongful death suit. The suit claimed that Aaron, not the Gathers family, was the rightful heir to Hank's estate.
Suddenly, the people closest to Gathers in life were, in his death, fighting over money that wasn't there.
Crump, 26, has a four-year-old son, Chris, by another man. She, like Lucille, appeared to be counting on Gathers to help her get out of the North Philadelphia row house she shares with her sons and her mother, Phyllis. Hank's high school friends say he was proud of Aaron and vowed to take care of him when he made it to the NBA—a likely achievement for a player who had led the nation in scoring and rebounding as a junior and had enjoyed a solid senior season. But the friends also say that Hank and Marva were never close, that he picked Aaron up at her house and dropped him off there. Nothing more. Marva says: "Nobody knew him the way I knew him. We were a lot closer than anyone thought."
"She made a fool of herself at the funeral," says Rich Yankowitz, Gathers's high school basketball coach. "She was crying, trying to get into the casket, saying, 'My baby, my baby, my baby.' She and Hank were nothing."