Peter Sauer, captain of the Stanford Men's Basketball team that shocked the college basketball world by advancing to the Final Four in 1998, died tragically over the weekend.
The 35-year-old father of three was playing in a pick-up game in New York on Sunday evening when he collapsed, hit his head on the concrete and did not recover (via Lee Higgins, lohud.com).
When something like this happens, the common refrain is to say he died doing what he loved. While it is obviously true that Sauer loved the game of basketball, a life as full as his deserves more than such a quick and easy eulogy.
Of course, basketball was a major part of a life cut too short so it must be included in the story.
As a junior, Sauer was a key component on Stanford's only Final Four team in school history (excluding the 1942 NCAA championship team), averaging over nine points and almost five rebounds per game in 1997-98. During his final year, he helped lead the Cardinal to its first-ever Pac-10 title. He was a member of the graduating Class of 1999, making him one of five seniors that year who had played in four NCAA tournaments.
But it was his coronations as team captain during both his junior and senior seasons which hint that basketball was just one facet of his life and not the most significant.
Sauer did not post the biggest numbers for his squads, but that he was named the team leader in consecutive years speaks in reverent volumes that his numbers may lack. As do the memories shared by teammate Kris Weems and former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery (via Jeff Farnaud, San Jose Mercury News).
From Weems: "Pete had a way about him where he could be a leader and still be one of the guys, too...He was one of the guys who made the engine go...Pete was just a good dude to be around."
From Montgomery: "He was a terrific kid, an unbelievable student-athlete. Smart, tough, great team member."
You frequently hear Stanford athletes applauded for balancing the rigors of academia with those of competing in their chosen sports. As many Stanford graduates will tell you, the applause isn't always merited—some of our athletes take shortcuts just like those at other schools.
Not Peter Sauer. He was the genuine article, a true scholar-athlete.
I graduated from the Farm in 2001, which means our time on campus overlapped for two years. Though our paths never crossed directly, I had friends who were Economics majors just like Sauer and several of them shared classes with him. By all accounts, he was an engaged, intelligent and conscientious student. Those accounts seem to be verified by the fact that he was still working in finance at the time of his death.
Furthermore, during my four years in Palo Alto, I routinely heard unflattering stories about our athletes and witnessed more than a few. Sauer never figured in any of them and, given the notoriety of the basketball team along with his 6'7" height, he wasn't flying under any radars.
Consequently, it's no stretch to call him a model student-athlete.
That is not to say Peter Sauer was a saint—he probably got in trouble once or twice and maybe said the wrong thing at the wrong time every so often.
That just means he was human and imperfect like the rest of us. But considering his time in the public eye and lack of detractors, it's safe to say he was better than most.
Sauer leaves behind three young daughters, his wife Amanda, his younger brother Alex, and his parents, Mark and Georgia (via Jeff Farnaud, San Jose Mercury News), as well as many close friends.
I doubt very much that anything can be of much solace to them in the face of such a devastating loss. But they can rest assured that his death is felt and their sorrow shared by the Stanford community and beyond.
Peter Sauer was much more than just a basketball player. He was also a scholar, a friend, a brother, a husband, a father and a son.
And he will be missed.
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