Daryl Thomas, member of IU’s 1987 national championship team, dies from heart attack

  • 03/28/2018 4:51 pm in

Daryl Thomas, who averaged 15.7 points for Indiana’s 1987 NCAA championship team, died on Wednesday from a heart attack. Thomas was 52.

A 6-foot-7 forward who played in 106 games over four seasons in Bloomington, Thomas assisted Keith Smart’s game-winning shot and scored 20 points in IU’s 74-73 national championship win over Syracuse.

Thomas is survived by his wife, Marla and three children – Kayla, Kyle and Adam.

A native of Westchester, Illinois, Thomas was a captain on both the 1985-86 and 1986-87 Indiana teams. He was an All-Big Ten player as a junior and senior.

He signed with Indiana after a decorated prep career under Gene Pingatore at St. Joseph’s High School. Thomas was a McDonald’s All-American, a Parade All-American and a first team all-state player in Illinois.

At Indiana, he scored 1,095 points and is 47th on the school’s all-time scoring list. Following his career at IU, Thomas was a sixth round pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 1987 NBA draft. He spent 13 years as a professional in Europe and South America.

A 1987 graduate of IU, he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the sixth round of the 1987 NBA Draft and played professionally in Europe and South America for 13 years.

Thomas had been the head coach at Montini Catholic High School since 2015.

“The Indiana University men’s basketball family is devastated to learn of the passing of 1987 National Champion Daryl Thomas,” IU basketball said in a statement. “Our prayers go out to his family, friends, teammates and coaches and all others who he had an impact on throughout his life.”

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Hoosier legend and National Champion Daryl Thomas,” IU coach Archie Miller said in a statement. “He was beloved by his teammates and coaches. Our prayers go out to his wife, Marta, his children, and the Montini Catholic High School Community he served.”

“Ever since that 1987 championship game, I’ve always called that the greatest single play I ever had a kid make: giving up the ball and setting the screen that got the man open for the shot that won a national championship,” Bob Knight said in a statement. “That was Daryl — absolutely unselfish. His attitude and his play on the court are what I always remember about him — that and how really great a kid he was. He had wonderful parents. I just feel sick about hearing this and very bad for his family, his team and everyone around him.”

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  • E Foy McNaughton

    I got to play with him a couple of times at the HYPER – he was just a really neat guy. Deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

  • WhatsUpKnight2.0

    condolences to his family, but for sure he led a full life. and it sure sounds like he lived it the right way.

    dakich is right, HUGE improvement over the course of his career. entirely different player as a sr than as a fr, especially on offense. truly makes me sad when i think back to his postgame interview, how elated he was to be a national champion. i remember thinking it was the first time i saw that kind of emotion from him, and he just seemed like a cool dude.

    tremendous respect and gratitude to DT for the fond memories he gave us. it cannot be overstated how much they mean to all of hoosier nation.

  • coachv

    so cool. if memory serves, he was a favorite whipping boy of knight

  • MrNobody

    Truly one of my all time favorite IU players. This is truly sad news. Heart and prayers to his family. Hopefully a good memorial during a game next year for him.

  • SCHoosier

    Saw that game and that shot in person. DT was so important to what that team accomplished. RIP

  • SCHoosier

    RIP Daryl.

  • Piker

    RIP DT. Thanks for all the play and your life after, supporting the game. Still say it was a pass to Ricky in that unbelievable comeback over LSU in Regional finals in 87. Best game I ever attended.

  • level 42

    Where were your seats? I was behind the basket we hit “the shot”. DT was the backbone of that team. Great player and a great person. Prayers for his family and friends.

  • Terry Zarnik

    I agree with Coach Knight. That pass to Keith Smart was one of the greatest passes in I.U. history. Without it we never would have made that great comeback. God bless you and your family. Rest and be at peace with God. As an I.U. alum, thanks so much for the fantastic memories…and the 1987 NCAA Championship. RIP

  • Sarasota Hoosier

    Long after he left IU, Daryl called Coach Knight the best coach of all time and responsible for transforming him into a man. Sad to hear the comment below about him being Knight’s whipping boy, so far from the truth. I watched part of that Syracuse game and I see some similarity between Daryl and Juwan’s game.

  • TomJameson

    Coach didn’t have any favorites in that area. lol

  • dwdkc

    In Season on the Brink, Feinstein detailed how hard Knight was on Daryl. He said he wished for Daryl to become the great player he saw he was capable of more than Daryl did. Just too nice a guy. Knight was pretty brutal but Daryl didn’t hold it against him. Daryl had a terrific inside game; I didn’t realize he went for 20 in the NC game. The two main options for a big bucket in the halfcourt were Alford coming off a screen or DT in the low post. Syracuse took away #1, they went to Daryl, and Smart took advantage of the attention to get open for the easy jumper. Knight never had to call timeout in those end of game situations because he trusted his guys to execute and know what to do, vs. a defense that without a timeout would not be as well prepared. RIP Daryl

  • Colt

    RIP Daryl. You will be missed.

  • Daryl was a wonderful player, a good man, and made us all proud to be hoosiers!

    that was an unexpected championship, and one of the finest that I have had the pleasure to witness!

    RIP old friend.