The ESPN “30 for 30” documentary The Guru of Go is a film that profiles Paul Westhead’s cutting edge, up-tempo system of basketball that led Loyola Marymount to the precipice of NCAA glory in the late 1980s, and also depicts how the team dealt with the tragic death of their star player Hank Gathers.
How to Watch ‘The Guru of Go’ Online
Every film in the complete 30 for 30 library, including The Guru of Go, can be watched with a subscription to ESPN+.
Once signed up for ESPN+, you can watch The Guru of Go on your computer via the ESPN website, or you can watch on your phone (iOS or Android), tablet, Roku, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Xbox One or other compatible streaming device via the ESPN app.
‘The Guru of Go’ 30 for 30 Preview
The ESPN “30 for 30” documentary The Guru of Go is a powerful film that tells the story of Paul Westhead’s modernized system of up-tempo basketball that launched Loyola Marymount into the national spotlight in the late 1980s and paints the emotional picture of how the team came together to deal with the shocking death of their star player Hank Gathers.
The film is directed by Academy and Emmy Award-winning director and producer Bill Couturié, best known for his work on the Academy Award-winning documentary “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt.” Couturié uses passages from Westhead’s journal entries intertwined with lines from Shakespeare (which Westhead enjoys) to masterfully tell the story.
Westhead is explained to be a “rebel in the basketball world” in the documentary. His run-and-gun fast-paced style of basketball that he called “the system” was an innovative approach to the game in the 1980s.
“I coach a style that demands maximum speed every second of the game,” said Westhead in one of his journal entries. “No downtime. That’s the point of the system. No downtime for your opponent. Wear them down and victory will come easy.”
The beginning of the film documents Westhead’s brief stint as an NBA coach in the early 80s when he took over as the Los Angeles Lakers head coach during the 1979-1980 season after their previous coach Jack McKinney suffered a serious injury from a bicycle accident.
Under Westhead’s leadership, the Lakers won 60 regular-season games and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980 NBA Finals to take home the title. Despite winning the championship, the Lakers fired Westhead in 1981. He then went on to have a lackluster season with the Chicago Bulls, going 28-54 before being released.
After weighing walking away from the game, Westhead returned to coach college ball at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, where he’d propel the small private school’s program to national notoriety.
Westhead was able to lure star players Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble over from USC and from 1988 to 1990 the Lions launched into the national spotlight, going 27-3, 20-10 and 23-5, respectively, while making the NCAA Tournament each season.
“But at Loyola, a small L.A. college completely off the radar for college ball, a non-entity in the NCAA, Westhead got the players he needed,” said Couturié in ESPN’s “Director’s Cut.” “Two freshmen from Philly, via USC. Paul caught a little luck in that he was from Philly, too. A preacher from back home told the boys to go with Paul. They did. The rest is pure basketball history.
“You can’t make this stuff up. In fact, that’s the yardstick I use to measure great doc material — is it too amazing to be fiction? The story of Gathers, Westhead and Kimble, set against the Loyola years and the run at a national title, is too dramatic to NOT be real. As a fictional film, it is over-the-top. But as a doc, it’s pure gold.”
Loyola Marymount excelled under Westhead’s up-tempo system, averaging a remarkable 110 points per game in the 1987-1988 season, 113 points per game in 1988-1989 and an NCAA Division I record-122 points per game in 1989-1990.
Conditioning was key to Westhead’s system, as the team prided themselves on their ability to get up and down the court and ultimately wear their opponents out.
“I used to get phone calls and letters all the time from other strength and condition coaches and athletic trainers around the country and they’d go what’s your guy’s secret,” said former Loyola Marymount trainer Chip Schaefer. “How do you guys get that fit? How do we get in shape? We ran.”
Gathers and Kimble, who played high school basketball together in Philadelphia, became national stars at Loyola Marymount. Gathers became the second player in history to lead the NCAA in both scoring and rebounding in 1989 and Kimble led the country in scoring in 1990.
Early in the 1989-1990 season, Gathers collapsed during a game against UC Santa Barbara. He was diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat and was treated with medication that appeared to make him sluggish when he returned to play.
Just three months later, Gathers tragically passed on the court when he collapsed and died from a heart attack during a conference tournament game. The 23-year-old had just dunked an alley-oop pass when he attempted to get back on defense and collapsed around midcourt.
Couturié paints the picture of the depths of the tragedy with emotional interviews from Hank’s brother Derrick Gathers, teammates and coach Westhead.
The film then follows the inspired run that Loyola Marymount went on during the NCAA Tournament to reach the Elite 8.
In the first round, Kimbel honored Gathers with a left-handed free throw and Loyola Marymount got past New Mexico State, 111-92. The Lions then trounced defending national champion Michigan, putting up 149 points en route to advancing to the Sweet 16. There they beat Alabama in a low-scoring affair, 62-60. The magical run came to an end in the Elite 8, when they fell to the eventual NCAA Tournament champion UNLV, 131-101.
“This is a great tragedy, it’s a great success story,” Tom Peabody, a forward from that Loyola Marymount team, said in the film. “It has all of those things. But ultimately what it was, was it was the underdog. It was anyone of us, who captured the emotions and excitement of a nation playing a basketball game, dealing with an incredible tragedy but overcoming that, and those stories don’t come around all the time.”
What Other Content is on ESPN+?
Name a sport, and it’s probably on ESPN+ at some point throughout the year:
- UFC: Most “Fight Night” events are on ESPN+, while PPV events can be ordered through ESPN+
- International Soccer: ESPN+ has exclusive rights to all Serie A, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Copa del Rey matches in the US. Also includes EFL, Coppa Italia, Copa America, A-League, Dutch Eredivisie, Indian Super League, W-League and more
- Boxing: Dozens of Top Rank fights, which includes Vasyl Lomachenko and Tyson Fury
- College Sports: Hundreds of football and men’s and women’s basketball games (including many Big 12 games), as well as lacrosse, hockey, wrestling, volleyball, softball, baseball, swimming, gymnastics and more
- Tennis: Grand Slam events, including exclusive coverage of every Wimbledon and US Open match not televised on the ESPN or ESPN2
- International cricket: Matches featuring New Zealand, India and others
- International Rugby: Including Guinness PRO14 and Super Rugby matches
- MLB: One daily out-of-market game
- NHL: One daily out-of-market game
- MLS: All out-of-market matches
Other Documentaries & Films
Other ESPN documentaries and films that aren’t included in the actual 30-for-30 series are also available on ESPN+, including D. Wade: Life Unexpected, Venus vs, The ’99ers and others.
The list of ESPN+ originals continues to grow. It includes Peyton’s Places, The Boardroom with Kevin Durant, NBA Rooks, Ariel & The Bad Guy, The Fantasy Show and Alex Morgan: The Equalizer.
UFC On-Demand Library
In addition to live UFC events, ESPN+ also features a vast library of past fights you can watch. This includes classics from Conor McGregor, Anderson Silva, Michael Bisping, Brock Lesnar, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, Frank Mir and others. You can find a complete rundown of the ESPN+ UFC library here.
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