The sporting world is searching for answers to questions as news emerges that Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale's daughter, Sasha McHale, died Saturday at the age of 23. How did Sasha McHale die? Who was Sasha McHale? What were her passions?
McHale announced less than two weeks into this NBA season that he was taking a leave of absence from his coaching duties, leaving fans to wonder what the matter was.
Executives of the team, led by Kelvin Sampson in McHale's absence, said he was leaving for an indeterminate amount of time to tend to a family issue, but did not provide additional information at the time, according to the Associated Press.
On Sunday, Yahoo Sports reported that the tragic situation was addressed in a statement by Rockets owner Leslie Alexander that shines some light on the McHale family's ordeal, but does not specifically address the cause of death.
“I extend my deepest condolences to Kevin and Lynn for the loss of their beautiful daughter, Sasha, on Saturday afternoon,” Alexander wrote.
“Kevin and Lynn are loving and dedicated parents who will need our continued support throughout this very difficult time. Our entire
organization is mourning the McHale family's loss and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers."
Alexander did not provide any information about McHale's future plans or anything beyond that short statement, according to Yahoo Sports.
Here are five things to know about Sasha McHale, a girl who died far too soon:
1. She suffered from lupus. Sasha McHale lived for many years with the deadly disease lupus, reported Jonathan Feigen, who writes for the Houston Chronicle's Ultimate Rockets blog. Although SB Nation reported that Sampson said on Wednesday that the McHales' family situation -- aka the state of Sasha McHale's health -- was “improving,” the disease can be fatal and unpredictable, and fate had other plans for Sasha. Lupus is an incurable autoimmune disease that causes a wide range of symptoms from hair loss to skin rashes to mouth sores. Veronica Scott, a teammate on Sasha's 2008 high-school basketball team, said that Sasha was a student at the University of Minnesota at Duluth and that she fell ill during a 2011 trip to Australia, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported. Sasha then returned home to deal with her disease.
2. Sasha McHale, who turned 23 last month according to Houston's KTRK-TV, was an accomplished athlete before being brought down by lupus. Following in her father's basketball-playing footsteps, Sasha played forward for the Totino-Grace High School Eagles in Minnesota, the Saint Paul Pioneer Press reported. She wore No. 32 on her jersey, as did her father during his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame career with the NBA'a Boston Celtics, with whom he also played forward.
3. She will be remembered. The Internet has been abuzz with discussion of Sasha McHale's death, with an outpouring of support emerging as people learn of her sad fate. Many of basketball's leading lights are expressing their condolences due to Sasha's early passing. Previously, Kevin McHale coached the Minnesota Timberwolves, and that team's owner, Glen Taylor, offered the following words following her death: “While Kevin was with our organization, we all watched Sasha grow up and become an outstanding young woman. She will be sorely missed by her family and friends." In the wake of Sasha's death, Houston Rockets guard James Harden tweeted, “Praying for coach McHale and his family,” while his teammate Chandler Parsons tweeted, “R.I.P. Sasha.”
4. Her first name was actually Alexandra. Although the world will likely remember Kevin McHale's 23-year-old daughter by her nickname, Sasha McHale, her first name was Alexandra.
5. You can make a donation in her name to help support research to find a cure for lupus. Click this link to go to a page where you can make a contribution to the Lupus Foundation of America. You can choose to make either a generic donation or one in Sasha McHale's name, as many folks are sure to do in the wake of her succumbing to the disease.
Veronica Scott, one of Sasha McHale's dearest friends, will get the last word in this piece. “She was positive even though she struggled so much," Scott told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. "Everyone that knew her was impacted by her, and she brought happiness to every person."