Jason Rabedeaux Rumors
JASON RABEDEAUX DIED without shoes in the back seat of a Saigon taxicab, somewhere between his apartment tower on the bleak outskirts of the city and a hospital with a name he couldn’t pronounce. He wore a red T-shirt. Blood loss had left him white and cold. Nobody expected this — a suspicious gash on his arm and a cut on his head — but people had been expecting something. For the past two weeks, he’d been acting strange. In the hours before he died, in the locker room dressing for what would be his final game, he’d struggled to get his belt through the loops of his pants — such a long fall for a man once considered among the hottest young college basketball coaches in the States, a man with charisma and drive yet broken in ways he could never win enough to fix. When the last game ended, tears welled in his eyes as he called it one of the biggest victories of his career, which had taken him in the past 15 years from head coach at UTEP to a series of international teams around Asia and the Middle East, his paycheck growing smaller with each passing year.
One of his former players suspected murder, and the deep cut on his left forearm is what ER doctors call a nightstick injury, almost always a defensive wound. Friends wondered about alcohol, even drugs. It was a mystery. The death certificate, written in Vietnamese, listed the cause of death as a traumatic brain injury.
THREE MONTHS AFTER the funeral, Bobby Champagne sips his icy mug of beer and remembers what he and his friend Jason wanted to be, all those years ago, when they were young and everything seemed possible. “Everybody has those grand illusions,” he says. Dick Vitale once called Rabedeaux one of the five hot coaches to watch. Around the same time, the Sporting News called Champagne the WAC assistant most likely to get a D1 job. He’s still waiting. “I’m at North Alabama,” he says, smiling thinly, shaking his head.
NO MATTER HOW far away from home he felt in the streets of Vietnam, Rabedeaux believed he would coach again in the United States. This belief sustained him, from his first moments in Saigon. He’d talk about it, to the other coaches, or at night in his first apartment with his roommate, journeyman center Jonathan Jones, in the honest moments before sleep. Rabedeaux was waiting on Sampson to save him. “Once Kelvin got a job,” Jones says, “Rab was gonna be on the first thing smoking.” Kelvin already had rescued Rab once before — from the hoops wasteland of an obscure Division III school — making him part of his staff at Washington State in 1989. Basketball was Rabedeaux’s vice; he barely drank, had never smoked pot or cigarettes. Since his adolescence in Wisconsin, he’d searched in locker rooms for the family he’d wanted since his split apart, and with Sampson, he found it. His compulsiveness, always a handicap, found a purpose; he arrived at Sampson’s door broken, and this new job made him whole.
He left behind debt, more discovered every day as creditors hound his oldest son. The IRS wants money, and so do at least eight credit cards. The team, which found out about the financial issues after Rabedeaux died, is working to pay the family a $50,000 accidental death benefit, plus the remaining amount owed per his contract, but all of that will certainly be carved into pieces by his creditors. When all the lawyers and accountants are finished, Jason Rabedeaux will have coached 26 years, in five countries, for a total of $900 — the amount in his money clip, which Eva found after he died and turned in to the team. He left behind a mystery. “Just to slip and fall and hit your head and you die,” says former roommate Jonathan Jones. “That seems weird to me. That’s not adding up.” “Did he do stuff we didn’t know about?” Garbelotto says. “Was he going to the middle of Saigon and getting hard drugs? Everything is in play.”
The AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League has lost one of its key personalities today. Saigon Heat’s head coach Jason Rabedeaux passed away this morning at his house in Ho Chi Minh City. Coach Rabs was well known for his passion for getting the best out of his players and always putting the development of basketball in Vietnam as his number one priority since arriving in the country in 2012.
Can you hear me now?:Jason relays his experiences in Asia with his blog on HoopsHype.com. With millions of followers throughout the world, his Asian Diaries gives an inside look into the world of basketball through his eyes. He cleverly laments stories about what the sport is like in Communist-based China and in Japan- game days are very different than what Americans are used to as it’s not uncommon to have tea served at games, smoking is tolerated and you probably won’t hear Zombie Nation. But his messaging doesn’t end there. He understands that his typical locker-room pep talk and motivational anecdotes won’t be helpful in his situation. Coach shares that “sometimes I use their culture as inspiration, like incorporating Sun Tzu’s The Art of War to help motivate my players”; who would imagine using a classic piece of written work to get your team psyched to play?