Years after tragedy, USF's Heath returns to Dayton
DAYTON, Ohio -- As Stan Heath's USF team played its first NCAA Tournament game in 20 years, the University of Dayton Arena has a special place in Heath's heart, going back 16 years to a tragedy when he was a young assistant at Bowling Green.
Chris Daniels, then the starting center for Dayton and the brother of Bowling Green star Antonio Daniels, died in his sleep of a heart attack at age 21, on Feb. 8, 1996. Bowling Green coach Jim Larranaga got a call in the middle of the night from Daniels' mother, and he asked Heath to break the tragic news to his player.
"He basically became Antonio's big brother right there, in one of the most tragic events an individual can go through," Larranaga told the Times in 2007.
Larranaga, Heath and Antonio Daniels drove that night from Bowling Green to Dayton to be with the Daniels family, and the entire Falcons team attended the funeral in Columbus. Six days later, in a game his brother was planning to attend, Antonio Daniels hit the winning shot with 4 seconds left as Bowling Green upset No. 23 Eastern Michigan, 72-70.
Antonio Daniels, who went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA, took his brother's No. 33 jersey number and wore it much of his career as a memorial. There is a plaque honoring Daniels in the Dayton arena, and the Atlantic-10's annual Most Improved Player award now carries Daniels' name.
"A lot of things I do now, I think back to what he would have wanted me to do," Daniels writes in a tribute to his brother on his official site.