Ask Stanford fans about the program's unforgettable 1998 run to the Final Four, and Peter Sauer probably isn't the first Cardinal player they'll mention.
That honor would go to guard Arthur Lee, who scored 26 points against both Rhode Island in the Elite Eight and Kentucky in the Final Four. Or perhaps to forward Mark Madsen, whose two-handed dunk over Antonio Reynolds Dean off a steal from Lee capped an unlikely final-minute comeback against the Rams and became the signature moment of the Mike Montgomery era.
But ask any Stanford player or coach, and they'll tell you Sauer was as critical as any of his teammates to the Cardinal's run of success in the late 90s. He was a deft passer, a skilled shooter and a relentless competitor, making all the little hustle plays that contributed to the Cardinal winning 90 games in his four seasons and capturing their first conference title in 36 years when he was a senior in 1999.
Sauer died Sunday night at age 35 in White Plains, N.Y., when he collapsed during a pickup game, hit the back of his head on the concrete court and never recovered. The Pittsburgh native leaves behind a wife, three daughters and dozens of grieving former teammates, coaches and opponents who took the time Monday to express their grief.
"Coaching is like parenting, no real favorites," tweeted Portland coach Eric Reveno, a former Stanford assistant. "Just qualities you love in each. Peter Sauer had a bunch to love. RIP"
"The summer between our freshman and sophomore year, we were in Italy playing games on an international tour," Madsen, now a Stanford assistant, said in a release. "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.'"
Maybe the most moving tribute to Sauer was the above video produced by ex-Stanford teammate Ryan Mendez. It showed many of the highlights from Sauer's Stanford career during which the forward averaged 7.9 points and 4.2 rebounds.
In recent years, Sauer had been working in New York City in Equity Sales at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He had also been planning a get-together with 25 former Stanford players for next season.
"Very tragic," Montgomery told GoStanford.com. "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."