AP Photo/Chris Schneider

CHARLESTON, W. Virtual assistant. (AP) — Dan D’Antoni was obviously a 23-year-old assistant with the Marshall golf ball program in 1970, and a babysitter, too. He was at the house of a friend and team doctor for the Thundering Herd when an airplane carrying members of the Wichita Condition football team crashed in Co.

As they watched the news unfold, plus learned of the 31 lives dropped, Dr . Ray Hagley turned to D’Antoni and said: “You really don’t understand how tragic this is going to be until you live there. ”

Six weeks afterwards, D’Antoni was watching some of Hagley’s six children when television plus radio broadcasts were interrupted to get a report that the plane carrying the particular Marshall football team had damaged near campus, killing all seventy five aboard. Among them were Hagley great wife. Their children were suddenly orphans.

D’Antoni eventually left Marshall, plus an athletic department ripped aside by pain and loss, simply to return in 2014 to direct the Thundering Herd. As destiny would have it, the program’s initial trip to the NCAA Tournament within 31 years means a game towards Wichita State on Friday within San Diego.

“We certainly experienced exactly the same type of tragedy, ” D’Antoni remembered this week.

The meaning of the schools’ 1st matchup in men’s basketball (they never played in football) will be hardly lost on supports plus alumni of two schools permanently linked by tragedy. The group release on Sunday brought back simple guidelines of the bonds forged by all of them in the days and weeks following the crashes, their struggles to restore and the awful memories that will by no means go away.

“To be 18 years of age and to be part of two human tragedies was a heavy burden, ” stated John Potts, a kicker to the 1970 Shockers team who, such as other freshmen, was ineligible to try out at the time.

That meant he had been home in Wichita when among the school’s two planes went down.

“Once we were made aware of the Marshall plane going down, ” Potts mentioned, “we were all stunned, plus it was hard to believe it was occurring all over again. We were just a few weeks taken off laying all of our teammates, coaches, personnel, faculty members and supporters in order to rest. ”

The crashes had been separated by a mere 43 times and 1, 300 miles.

It had been a clear Oct. 2 when the 2 planes carrying Wichita State’s group took off from Denver, headed for the game at Utah State. Issues the plane nicknamed “Black” took the prepared route north and arrived properly, while the “Gold” plane carrying the particular starters, university officials and boosters took a detour that the fliers thought would give their passengers a far more scenic view.

The plane was not able to pull out of a canyon west of Denver , near tiny Silver Plume. It crashed into a hillside, eliminating 14 starters and more than a number of others.

“The events on that will mountainside left an indelible tag on all of us, ” said Marijuana Moore, whose brother, Bill, was obviously a tight end killed in the accident. “The disbelief and totally dropped feeling we all experienced was but still is a hurdle you never quite crystal clear. You attempt it over and over again however, you always seem to fall just a little brief. We all struggled to find any kind of description.

“Then the next day – 43 times after our horrible accident : it happened again. ”

It had been a rainy, foggy Nov. fourteen night when Marshall’s chartered plane, returning from a game against Eastern Carolina, went down short of the Tri-State Airport runway. The plane burst in to flames, leaving a charred swath of trees in what remains the particular deadliest crash involving a sports activities team in U. S. background.

Both schools lost their fitness directors, head coaches and so several bright futures.

“Those very difficult days 48 years ago ring obviously in both our universities every day, inch Moore said. “For me, it had been a time of total confusion, searching for an answer was next to impossible. ”

John Rhatigan was watching television in his Wichita home when the school’s dean associated with students saw a news display about the Marshall crash. He monitored down his counterpart at the college, Constantine Curris, and offered their insight on how his own school got dealt with the crash.

They talked about grief counseling and support providers. They talked about a memorial which was being planned at Wichita Condition, and one that Curris would ultimately plan at Marshall.

“I understood some things we had done perfectly in connection with our crash, and some elements we’d done not so well, having no practice or experience with this particular, ” Rhatigan said. “I could help him a great deal. We never ever did meet in the real feeling, but I feel like we were linked for life. ”

Just as the colleges were bonded forever.

“The really fact that he reached out, and had been someone who had experienced what we had been experiencing, gave us a lot of ease and comfort as we thought about what we needed to perform or what we could do provided the extraordinary grief that ingested the campus and the community, inch said Curris, who went on to get the president at Murray Condition, Northern Iowa and Clemson.

Marshall assistant coach Red Dawson, among the figures in the Hollywood film “We Are Marshall” detailing the accident, had driven to the East Carolina game because of a recruiting trip. He or she was heading home when he or she learned that the Thundering Herd’s airplane had crashed.

The following offseason, Dawson went to a national coaching meeting. He recalled talking at duration with some of his counterparts from Wichita State, and how they bent on each other for support.

“They couldn’t have been nicer, ” mentioned Dawson, who remained with Marshall for another year before the pain plus guilt drove him from the video game. “It’s taken me a long time to obtain somewhere thinking about it as history instead of reality. ”

D’Antoni had to depart town, too, after helping their family find a new home for your Hagley children. The crash and it is aftermath “didn’t wear well, inch he said, recalling his a lot of lost friends.

He would spend 30 years coaching high school basketball in Sc, then joined his younger sibling, veteran NBA coach Mike D’Antoni, on the bench as an assistant intended for nine seasons.

D’Antoni took their first college head coaching work four years ago, at the age of 66, summoned back to Huntington by a school that will left him with so many mixed feelings. And while they no doubt presented challenging, so did the job he passed down, taking over a program that had gone via seven coaches since last producing the NCAA Tournament in 1987.

One of the assistant coaches during the intervening years happened to be current Wichita Condition coach Gregg Marshall, adding one more layer of coincidence – or even kismet – to the Thundering Herd’s game against the Shockers in the starting round of the East Regional.

Individuals close to both programs are aware of their particular shared histories, the heartbreak 6 weeks apart that threatened to unravel their entire athletic departments. Wichita State ended up dropping football within 1986 after 18 losing periods in a 20-year span. But they furthermore recall with pride how they kept things together, and how the schools’ support of each other made a positive change.

“March Madness is always exciting, inch D’Antoni said. “To be a part of much more it even better. ”

Skretta reported from Wichita, Kansas.

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