Grayling Gordon gathered his Griffith Panthers together on Wednesday afternoon.

From his heart, the coach spoke about a dear friend of his.

It was Marvin Rea.

The boys basketball coach at Lighthouse was killed on Tuesday during an accident on I-65 near Lafayette. Since this tragic news, I've received several messages about what a death trap this road is.

Sports writers, like basketball people, drive this highway all the time. There are too many semi trucks driving way too fast and too aggressively. How many times will innocent people get crushed by out-of-control semis?

Something must be done about this. Is the state house in Indianapolis listening to these cries? And tears?

Gordon played on East Chicago Washington's 1985 Final Four team. They played Rea's Roosevelt team in the regional that March, which the Senators won.

Two years later, Rea would take his Panthers to the Final Four, too.

Gordon spoke about how Rea used basketball to build a life for himself, education always before dunks. Rea played and graduated from Purdue then went into the corporate world.

His love of basketball brought him back to his home town, where he attempted to pass that torch onto the next generation. And he did that quite well.

"Marvin didn't take a day off in his life but I think some of you do," Gordon said. "You never know when your last practice, your last game, will take place. Only God knows that.

"That's why you have to give your all to everything you do every day. That's what coach Marv always did. Now, let's go."

Even in his untimely death, Marvin Rea is inspiring young men to reach for the stars.

Speaking to friends and loved ones of Rea on Wednesday was very painful for me. I heard their cries as we spoke and I felt them as well. I enjoyed my time covering his teams over the last decade.

Rea was smart, sharp and very engaging. I listened to him speak about his kids and the challenges life had thrown at some of them. Many in America give up on troubled kids and toss them to the side of the road.

Rea, however, never did.

He understood how a game and a faith could lift someone up.

Watching his Bowman Academy teams reach four state championship games in five years in three different classes was amazing. Rea's style, aggressive full-court defensive pressure, never stopped.

His teams created chaos on the hardwood, which sucked the soul out of their opponents. One breath at a time.

He was in the second year of trying to do the same thing at Lighthouse. I watched his team play at Lake Central on Nov. 29 and they competed well, before falling 86-82.

His captivating smile was there when we spoke. Like always, he was confident in his kids.

"We're real close to turning the corner," he said.

Had I known then that would be the last time I saw him, I would've given him a hug and said, "Thank you." For our friendship. The wisdom I learned in our relationship. The laughter we shared over silly jokes.

I will miss that. More than anyone will ever know.

My thoughts and prayers are with the young men putting on the Lions jersey tonight when they travel to Marquette Catholic for a game. I hope some solace can be found in the competition.

I trust Marvin's voice will still be in your head when you run your plays and do your defense. And more importantly, I hope Coach Marv's voice remains with you for the rest of your lives.

Don't let your environment drag you down. Let basketball open doors to a greater life.

That's what it did for the coach you all love and miss so much right now.

And that's what it can do for you. Don't ever let that light die.

Finally, before I stop typing and find a much-needed handkerchief, I hope the basketball powers that be in Indiana understand that Rea needs to be honored in a way the greats deserve. This has nothing to do with this horrific crash, but what he did in gyms all over the state.

Are you listening Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame?

This column solely represents the writer’s opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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Sports reporter

Steve has won awards during two different stints at The Times. In addition to being the Prep Beat columnist, he covers football, boys basketball and boys track. He is a long-suffering Cubs fan.