Butler family helps Kuwik deal with tragedy

February, 17, 2009
02/17/09
2:12
PM ET
Kevin Kuwik stared at the monitor at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, looking at the arrivals, waiting for a status on Continental Flight 3407 from Newark last Thursday night.

His brother, Keith, was scheduled to get married on Valentine's Day, Saturday, and Kevin couldn't wait for his girlfriend -- the person who had become his long-distance companion through the course of his first season as Butler's director of basketball operations after an assistant stint at Ohio -- to be by his side at the wedding. They met at the Final Four in San Antonio. They were looking forward to celebrating their one-year anniversary at this year's site in Detroit in April.

Maurer

Maurer

Lorin Maurer, 30, had met Kevin's family multiple times in his native Indiana, making countless efforts to see Kevin, 34, at Butler. Kevin went to Notre Dame, and earlier in the fall they met at a game in South Bend.

"She had been out here seven or eight times since September, and as you know, a long-distance relationship is a challenge," Kuwik said Tuesday morning. "I called Lorin the planner. We couldn't go longer than three weeks, or ideally two, without seeing each other. Once practice started it was harder. She was going to come out for our Cleveland State game next week."

Maurer, the former swimming-team captain at Rowan University -- who had worked at the NCAA and the Mountain West Conference -- had her own busy schedule. She was the Athletics Friends manager for the Princeton athletic department, and was planning the dedication of Carril Court on Saturday, in honor of former coach Pete Carril.

"She was really sharp, a great personality, a natural with people," Kuwik said. "If you had never met her, within five minutes she had everyone laughing."

"Kevin isn't one to put his business on the street, so I knew, when he would tell me about her, I knew she was special," said Northeastern assistant coach John Rhodes, who worked with Kuwik at Ohio. "She was the point person for the Carril Court. She was so proud of her job. She was so positive about everything."

Kuwik had rushed to the airport after having dinner with his family and getting some ice cream. He had a two-day break from the Bulldogs to attend the wedding. And then he looked up at the monitor and saw that Flight 3407 had landed.

"That's what it said, it said it had landed at 10:20 p.m. and whenever I picked up Lorin, I would get a text from her within 15-20 minutes," Kuwik said. "I didn't get a text. And then they took it off the screen. I kept hearing whispers that a plane had crashed. I thought it was a Cessna or a one- or two-seater. But then I saw the news cameras rushing into the airport."

Kevin's brother, Keith, was there with him, 48 hours before his wedding. Keith and Kevin got into the car, drove to the site, "and all we saw was smoke and fire trucks. We couldn't get there; we drove back to the airport and they made an announcement that no one had survived."

Rhodes was asleep when he got a call at 3 a.m. He knew Kevin's number, and he figured the Kuwiks were up celebrating the pending nuptials.

"I had no idea," Rhodes said. "I couldn't even fathom it."

Rhodes called Kuwik back.

"He just said, 'Her flight never showed up,' and I said, 'What are you talking about?' He said, 'There's been an accident.' It was horrible. At that point, I teared up. I tried to collect myself and told him how awful I felt," Rhodes said. "It was disbelief, shock and [feeling] stunned. You hear about these things, but I've never known anyone involved in a horrible accident. He's one of my best friends. I worry about Kevin. He can suppress a lot. This is a lot of pressure."

When Tim O'Shea left Ohio for Bryant University in the spring, and Rhodes didn't get the job, and former Ohio State assistant coach John Groce got the Bobcats job instead, neither Rhodes nor Kuwik was retained. Kuwik looked for a place where he could continue to appreciate the game, learn and get on the path toward becoming a head coach. O'Shea's staff had become family-oriented. He wanted the same thing. He found it at Butler.

"Kevin's such an unbelievable person," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "Lorin had been out here quite a bit. Kevin had only been here since August, and everyone speaks so highly of him."

That's why Stevens said when he got a text at 3 a.m., his "heart sank."

"I knew there was a plane crash in Buffalo," Stevens said.

Butler was scheduled to play Illinois-Chicago on Friday night. As soon as the players heard what had happened, they immediately began texting Kuwik. They didn't hesitate to come up with something to do for him with Stevens. So they made sure there was a black patch on their uniforms for the game. A moment of silence occurred before tipoff. The patch remained on the uniforms for Sunday's game against Loyola of Illinois, and there are no plans to remove it for the rest of the season.

"We're fortunate to have the type of kids we do," Stevens said. "They recognize the big picture of what's really important. It's a shock to everybody, and the person that needs our support is Kevin. Kevin is here. And the players know everything he does for them."

Kuwik stayed for Keith's wedding. He said that it was extremely tough not to have his girlfriend there. He said his brother and fiancé felt horrible.

Amid the wedding plans, Kevin and Lorin's parents went to the crash site and, with the rest of the families, were briefed by NTSB. Going to the site was "painful." He said Lorin's father had been a "rock" through the weekend.

Throughout, Kuwik was sending text messages back and forth with former Ohio assistant Brian Townsend, now at Michigan, whose then-29-year-old wife Rachel tragically died after completing the Chicago Marathon in 2003. Kevin was reaching out. But he kept getting text messages from friends and the Butler players, too.

"What Butler did shocked me, wearing the black armbands," Kuwik said. "That was pretty meaningful."

Kuwik was understandably numb. He had been through two tours in Iraq with the Indiana National Guard, taking a break from his coaching duties at Ohio when he was abruptly involuntarily recalled to serve, even though he was on inactive duty, in 2004-05.

"I made it through Iraq; our whole unit was unscathed for a year, and I get back and this happens," Kuwik said. "It doesn't make sense."

Members of his unit have been in touch with him in the past week. While Kuwik's unit was unhurt, he drove by plenty of blown-up Humvees in the desert.

"But you're in a military situation and you're always fearing the worst on a mission," Kuwik said. "This was different. You're with 49 other families and you see the whole gamut of emotion, the pain, the unexpected and inexplicable. It gets to you."

Lorin Maurer turned 30 on Dec. 28. Kevin said they spent the whole week around the holidays together.

"It was a great week," Kuwik said. "The things that have been written about her are amazing. She was amazing. It doesn't come close to what a great person she was to be around."

A memorial service for Lorin Maurer will be held Saturday in Reading, Pa., the hometown of her parents, who now live in South Carolina.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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