STANFORD, Calif.- Peter Sauer, a co-captain and starter on the 1998 Stanford Final Four basketball team, collapsed and died Sunday night after he fell back and hit his head on the concrete court during a pickup basketball game in White Plains, NY. He was 35.
The outgoing Sauer, who played four seasons for the Cardinal and graduated with an economics degree in 1999, was part of a five-man recruiting class that played in the NCAA Tournament four consecutive years and won the Pac-10 title in 1999.
"Everyone in the Stanford community is deeply saddened by the passing of Peter Sauer," said Johnny Dawkins, Stanford's Anne and Tony Joseph Director of Men's Basketball. "Peter was a tremendous individual and a devoted husband and father. He was very passionate about Stanford and our basketball program. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Amanda, and their three children."
Sauer was in attendance during Stanford's NIT championship run at Madison Square Garden in March, and prior to one of the games watched practice before speaking briefly to the team. Sauer led an early-morning tour of Bank of America's corporate headquarters the following day.
"Meeting him for the first time, you could easily see how invested he was in this program and really, all of Stanford athletics," said Dawkins. "Peter truly embodied what it meant to be a Stanford student-athlete. He spoke to our guys about taking full advantage of their opportunities and how attending Stanford is a lifetime decision."
Smart, tough, confident and dependable, Sauer served as a team captain during his junior and senior years for head coach Mike Montgomery. He started 96 games and played in 124 overall.
Sauer, who played small and power forward, averaged 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds for his career, but those numbers don't tell the story of his contributions. He was a fearless competitor, a terrific passer, and always had a smile on his face.
"Very tragic," Montgomery said. "To me, he was kind of the epitome of what a student-athlete should be. He wasn't the most athletic guy, but he was very cerebral and made others better. He was one of our more popular guys because he was so well-rounded."
The bigger the moment, the more Sauer responded.
"He made some big shots for us," said Montgomery. "I remember in our Final Four game against Kentucky, he hit a deep three to pull us within one. He was very competitive and had a great career for us."
"I remember during the summer between our freshman and sophomore year, we were in Italy playing games on an international tour," said current Stanford assistant coach Mark Madsen, and a teammate of Sauer. "One night, we were playing a top team and everybody was fired up and nervous. During warm-ups, Pete was on the side with a couple of kids in wheelchairs, laughing with them, and gave them Stanford pins. I remember thinking, `Man, this is a guy who really gets it."
Sauer grew up in Pittsburgh and was a standout basketball player at Shady Side Academy. He finished as the school's all-time leading scorer.
After graduation, Sauer signed with the Atlanta Hawks and was waived in the summer of 1999. He moved to Greece and played for the B.C. Iraklis Thessaloniki professional team.
Sauer spent the last five years working in New York City in Equity Sales at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He and his wife, Amanda, had three daughters. He is also survived by his parents, Mark and Georgia Sauer, and younger brother Alex. His father was former president of the St. Louis Blues hockey team and the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.
An autopsy was expected to be conducted today, according to the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office.
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REMEMBERING PETER SAUER
"In a lot of ways, he was the heart and soul of our program in terms of leadership and mentoring other players. He had a toughness and made people feel comfortable on the basketball team and in the Stanford family. Pete was so well-loved. He was a leader among men and you know he cared about you." - Mark Madsen, Stanford assistant coach and former teammate during 1998 NCAA Final Four run
"I'm still kind of stunned and dazed. I was on my official visit to Stanford with Pete and he stood out. When I first met him, I thought, 'He's a guy I can't wait to play with.' Just the way he approached the game. I think he had the respect of the veteran guys right off the bat without being too big for his britches. He was a natural leader and knew how to bring people together."
"Pete was a lot of fun to play with and we always had a blast together after games on the bus. He kept the team loose and was not afraid to laugh at himself. He had as good an understanding of the game as anybody Monty (Mike Montgomery) coached. He knew he belonged on the floor and was going to make an impact. He wanted the ball. Guys trusted Pete. He was the best I leader I've ever seen." - Kris Weems, former teammate
"Peter was one of the most outgoing, inclusive-spirited, funny, competitive, get-it-done, on-court-smarts-oozing, team-first athletes in the program's history." - John Platz, Stanford radio play-by-play announcer and former Cardinal basketball letterwinner (1982-84)
"Sad day in the #Stanford Family today - our brother Peter Sauer passed away...Peter was the Captain of our 98 Final Four team..." - @ryan3mendez (Ryan Mendez, former teammate 1997-2001)
"The Stanford Basketball family lost a great player and even better human being. RIP Peter Sauer. My prayers are with your family." - @j_owens13 (Josh Owens, former Cardinal basketball letterwinner 2008-12)
"Coaching is like parenting, no real favorites. Just qualities you love in each. Peter Sauer had a bunch to love. RIP" - @CoachReveno (Eric Reveno, Portland head coach and former Stanford assistant coach)
"So sorry to hear that my friend and classmate Pete Sauer died. Many, many will miss him. A tremendous person, and gone way too soon." - @FlemmingDave (Dave Flemming, San Francisco Giants radio play-by-play announcer and former Stanford men's basketball play-by-play voice)
"Heartbreaking a fantastic young guy gone too early =Peter Sauer of Stanford -only 35 May he RIP" - @DickieV (Dick Vitale, ESPN college basketball analyst)
"Thoughts and prayers to family of Peter Sauer, Stanford bsktball Final Four '98. Great guy. Tragic loss." - @RodGilmore (Rodney Gilmore, ESPN college football analyst and former Stanford football letterwinner)
- Bud Anderson, John Platz, Brian Risso, Mark Soltau.