Santa Clara University

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Stoking the fire

A 7-foot center, Nick Vanos ’85 came to Santa Clara blessed with great hands and agility. His years at the Mission campus stoked a competitive fire within him, and he went on to average 17 points and 10 rebounds a game his final two years. He left the school as the all-time leading shot blocker and was drafted by the Phoenix Suns.

Vanos spent two years as a backup to Alvin Adams. He played in 57 games in his second year, and the Suns were ready to commit to him as the starter in year three.

That was before Aug. 16, 1987. Vanos and his girlfriend, Caroline Cohen, were on a flight back from Michigan. Tragically, the pilot failed to ensure flaps and slats were extended, and the plane crashed on takeoff. Of the 154 passengers, the only survivor was a 4-year-old girl.

Vanos’ jersey was the first ever retired at SCU, and in 2007 it was raised to the rafters of the Leavey Center. DL

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