Peter Sauer, a key contributor on the 1998 Stanford Final Four men's basketball team, collapsed and died Sunday night after he hit his head on the court during a pickup basketball game in White Plains, N.Y. He was 35.
According to reports, Sauer was standing on the right side of the foul line while another player was shooting a free throw. He fell back, hitting his head on the concrete floor and stopped moving. He was taken by ambulance to White Plains Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:36 p.m.
An autopsy conducted by the Westchester County medical examiner's office on Monday revealed that Sauer had an enlarged heart and that likely was the cause of his death.
"Everyone in the Stanford community is deeply saddened by the passing of Peter Sauer," said Stanford men's basketball head coach Johnny Dawkins. "He 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."
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 1998.
"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."
Sauer was in attendance during Stanford's NIT championship run in March, and also watched practice before speaking briefly to the team. Sauer led an early-morning tour of Bank of America's corporate headquarters the following day.
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."
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.
Sauer spent the past 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.
An autopsy was expected to be conducted on Monday.
REMEMBERING PETER SAUER
"Peter was a guy who when he stepped on the court, he always played with a huge heart. He was a great shooter and a tough guy, but when he went off the court, his heart and the amount he cared about people was even bigger."
-- Mark Madsen, Stanford assistant coach and former teammate during 1998 NCAA Final Four run
"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)
"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 basketball Final Four '98. Great guy. Tragic loss."
-- @RodGilmore (Rodney Gilmore, ESPN college football analyst and former Stanford football letterwinner)