The tragic death of Sasha McHale, the 23-year-old daughter of Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, sent shockwaves through the sporting community this past weekend.
McHale died from complications of the autoimmune disease lupus on Saturday, according to the Houston Chronicle's Ultimate Rockets blog.
Her funeral gathering has been scheduled for Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Odilia Catholic Church, 3495 N. Victoria, Shoreview, Minn., according to an obituary published on Funeral.com. The funeral will be followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 1 p.m.
Ultimate Rockets reports that about 40 members of the Rockets team, coaching and staff rosters plan to attend Sasha McHale's funeral Wednesday.
The members of the Rockets organization will fly to Minnesota following Tuesday night's game against the Toronto Raptors, before which there will be a moment of silence for Sasha McHale. Rockets players will wear armbands died green, Sasha McHale's favorite color.
Immediately after the funeral, the 40 Rockets organization members plan to fly to Oklahoma City to play a game that night against the Thunder, according to Comcast Sportsnet Houston.
Kelvin Sampson has filled in for Kevin McHale as the Rockets' head coach since Nov. 10, when McHale took a leave of absence as his daughter's health deteriorated. Sampson said it is important to show support for the McHale family in this tough time.
“Her high school jersey number was No. 32. So green and 32, with the McHale family, that can only mean one thing,” Sampson said, according to Ultimate Rockets. “Celtic pride is in there somewhere. That’s also another indication she’s daddy’s girl. She adored her father. Her father adored her. That’s why this is so tough.
“It’s about supporting Kevin and his family. Kevin is hurting, as any parent would. I think it’s important for our players. They haven’t had a lot of contact with Kevin since he left. Being able to just give him a hug, let him know we’re there for him and supporting him. We’ve got to go play a game tomorrow night, but this is just a lesson in perspective.
“Everybody loves Kevin and Lynn [his wife]. You know, 23 years old, that just doesn’t seem fair. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet her a couple times, especially last season. That’s just an extremely, extremely close-knit family. Kevin told me yesterday … when they had family outings she was always the one who would organize. Here’s what you’re going to do, you’re going to do, you’re going to do. He was just reminiscing. It’s just a sad time.”
Rockets players have echoed Sampson's remarks, explaining their reasons for wanting to attend Sasha McHale's funeral, and for supporting their coach.
“It’s real important,” Rockets power forward Patrick Patterson said, according to Ultimate Rockets. “We have to support coach McHale. He’s a priority. He’s part of this family. His family is part of our family. We have to show him that we care, that we love him, each and every one of them.
“I believe and I hope it helps from the standpoint of support. There’s not too much words can really do, but knowing people are there supporting, knowing you have a family, a team, an organization behind you and understands what you’re going through, that’s what we want to show coach McHale and the McHale family. We love them and we’re here for them.”
His teammate Chandler Parsons also extended his support to the McHale family, and explained why he plans to attend Sasha McHale's funeral on Wednesday.
“It will be tough, but it is something we feel we have to do and is 100 percent necessary,” Parsons said, according to Ultimate Rockets. “We need to be there for him. He’s our head coach and we’re close to his family. There is no other way to do it than what we’re doing.”
On Sunday, Yahoo Sports reported that the tragic situation was first publicly 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.
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 she 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.
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, whose first name was actually Alexandra, 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's Boston Celtics, for whom he also played forward.