NBA Rumor: Jacqueline Towns Death

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Her death hit KAT especially hard given the close relationship he had with his mother. Jackie and her husband, Karl Sr., frequently accompanied their son on road trips, both in college at Kentucky and in the NBA with the Timberwolves, and could always be heard from the stands. Big Karl was the demanding coach and Jackie was the doting caretaker. “He was a mama’s boy. That’s what he was,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told The Athletic. “The grieving process is different in different people. I think he’s still numb to all the stuff. I really do.”

“I answered the phone and he just looked stressed,” Karl-Anthony said. “And I said, ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’” Big Karl told his son about his mother’s stroke. Not quite grasping what he was hearing, KAT immediately asked if doctors believed it was a step back because that is what the previous month had been measured in, steps forward and back. Not this time, Big Karl said. This time Jackie wasn’t going to be able to recover. “It hurt because I had told her she’s going to get better and better, but she’s going to have to go through the worst period to get to a better period,” Towns said of the conversation he had with Jackie before she was put in the coma. “She was confused and I asked her to just, ‘Trust me, mom. I got you. You know I would do anything for you.’ She said, ‘OK, I trust you.’”

All-Star forward Karl-Anthony Towns suffered an incredible loss when his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, died from the coronavirus in April. And Towns and several teammates were front-and-center in the calls for justice following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Rosas said that he and coach Ryan Saunders have tried their best to be there for Towns and the team. “It has been a tragic, tragic period in Karl’s life, not only with what everybody in the world is facing but when it hits home and it results in the death of his mother, it has been very tragic,” Rosas said. “Myself, Coach, the organization, we have regular communication with Karl and his family. We want to make sure that we’re there for them every step of the way. We have structures in place, even though we’re not together right now, to check on not only Karl but all of our players.”

Gersson Rosas: “He has spent the majority of his time here in Minneapolis, which has been great. We’ve had a chance to meet with him and his family, safely, through this process and just continue to support him. Everybody handles losses differently, and this is a major loss for him and his family. But he is a special individual with an incredible heart. He has a special family. And they are getting through it together. We’re fortunate because of who he is and the character he has and we’re doing everything we can to support him and his family.”

Voluntary player workouts will be permitted inside the Minnesota Timberwolves’ practice facility starting Thursday morning. As with other NBA facilities that are reopening, Mayo Clinic Square will follow strict rules during the coronavirus pandemic. Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said star center Karl-Anthony Towns has been “incredible through this whole process” despite the death of his mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, due to complications from the coronavirus on April 13.

“Our guys are educated; they understand what we’re going through,” Rosas said. “They understand the risks and they understand all the situations that we’re living through right now, and they’re making educated decisions. We’re confident in our players are in a good place and they want to be back. They want to be in an environment that they’re familiar with but they understand that it’s a first step and it’s a small step, and for some of them it’s just the opportunity to mentally get in a place where it’s a safe haven for them, and I know that’s the case for Karl.”

As a basketball scout, my partner in life, Thom, typically spends many spring and summer days on the road traveling across the country and Canada watching high school level players. Often in a gym from morning till night, he is assessing skills and abilities that are then sought after by college coaches looking for that next big talent. It was 2010 in Little Rock, Arkansas, that he first met Jackie Cruz-Towns, mother of NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns, at a national AAU event. Jackie sauntered up and said, “You must be somebody important, you’re taking notes.” A smile the size of her son’s talent was on her face. Karl was a rising sophomore that year.

The Wolves are preparing right along with them, trying to be ready should the green light come. But they also remain in a period of mourning, for Karl-Anthony Towns’ mother, Jacqueline, and for a relative in Malik Beasley’s family, both of whom have been lost to complications from coronavirus. What has made matters worse for the Wolves is that the shelter-in-place orders enacted to try to limit the spread of the virus are also limiting their ability to connect with members of the organization that are hurting. “Anytime you lose somebody, especially somebody as important as a parent, you want to be there for them and you want to support them,” president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas said. “We’ve tried really hard, anything and everything that we can to connect with Karl and his family and other players and other staff members that are going through it. But it’s not the same. You can’t hug somebody, you can’t spend one-on-one time with them. You can’t help them through this pain in a physical, personal way.”

Whether it happens sooner or later, the Wolves will be ready when the day comes to get back on the court. But the preparation will continue with heavy hearts from losses that have underscored just how real this threat is. “We’ve done everything that we can to stay connected, to stay engaged, to provide resources, to provide support,” Rosas said. “But it’s painful. It’s frustrating and it’s disappointing. You just want to grab KAT and give him a hug and let him know we’re here with him. I’d love for our 15 guys and our coaching staff and our front office to be together through this. But it’s where we’re at in this point in time. Whether it’s calls, texts chapel services, we’ve continued to support him and his family as best as we can.”

Back in the locker room after things cooled down, Rosas said you could see the love the family had for each other and how Cruz-Towns wasn’t going to back down. There were also moments of levity despite the drama that had just unfurled, such as Towns’ former agent, Leon Rose, now president of the Knicks, going back and forth between both locker rooms since he represented both Embiid and Towns. “[Towns’ father] Karl Sr. was telling her, ‘You have to be respectful. We’re in an away arena.’ She said, ‘I don’t care, that’s my son …’?” Rosas said. “To hear them tell stories and laugh once the adrenaline and emotions had calmed down, it was fun to see the dynamics and to talk to her. You know how passionate she was about Kat, the organization and about the team.” Rosas referred to Cruz-Towns as a “lioness.”

Rosas said he and Cruz-Towns bonded over the shared history growing up in Latin America; Cruz-Towns was from the Dominican Republic and Rosas is from Colombia. They would sometimes speak Spanish with one another, and Cruz-Towns made Rosas promise to help Towns learn Spanish. “Charismatic, passionate, full of love and emotion and you see that passion in Karl and you see where he’s a very special blessed young man,” Rosas said. “You can trace that back to Mom and Dad.”

Back in the locker room after things cooled down, Rosas said you could see the love the family had for each other and how Cruz-Towns wasn’t going to back down. There were also moments of levity despite the drama that had just unfurled, such as Towns’ former agent, Leon Rose, now president of the Knicks, going back and forth between both locker rooms since he represented both Embiid and Towns. “[Towns’ father] Karl Sr. was telling her, ‘You have to be respectful. We’re in an away arena.’ She said, ‘I don’t care, that’s my son …’?” Rosas said. “To hear them tell stories and laugh once the adrenaline and emotions had calmed down, it was fun to see the dynamics and to talk to her. You know how passionate she was about Kat, the organization and about the team.” Rosas referred to Cruz-Towns as a “lioness.”

Rosas said he and Cruz-Towns bonded over the shared history growing up in Latin America; Cruz-Towns was from the Dominican Republic and Rosas is from Colombia. They would sometimes speak Spanish with one another, and Cruz-Towns made Rosas promise to help Towns learn Spanish. “Charismatic, passionate, full of love and emotion and you see that passion in Karl and you see where he’s a very special blessed young man,” Rosas said. “You can trace that back to Mom and Dad.”

Christopher Hine: Governor Tim Walz, during his press briefing, on the death of Jacqueline Towns: “I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve had the privilege and the pleasure meeting Karl. You find very few people with just such a positive outlook. I’m deeply sorry for the loss in their family. Unfortunately, this is starting to hit more and more. I get cards and letters from folks every day and they talk about their experiences with it. Please accept my sympathies on this.”
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May 12, 2021 | 9:18 pm EDT Update