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Love, basketball aid Larry Gibson's recovery

Friends, family and basketball aid memory of ex-Terps star after 2004 accident

February 26, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

"The soap dish was pulled down and the towel rack was gone — he would reach for them and they would just come down," said his wife, who met him in 2002 when she was working at a law firm and he was making a UPS delivery.

Driesell decided he would try to help Gibson.

The retired coach circulated word of Gibson's struggles among former Maryland players — Graham, David Henderson, Buck Williams, Rich Porac and others — and about $10,000 was quickly raised to help pay expenses for Gibson, who recently moved to a larger place.

Porac, a Hagerstown dentist, had played for Maryland several years before Gibson, but knew who he was. When Porac heard that Gibson was suffering tooth pain, he agreed to work on him for free.

Gibson entered the dentist's office with the aid of a walker, and his speech was slurred. "It's kind of sad to see a guy who was so athletic in that condition," Porac said.

What struck Porac was his patient's attitude. "He thanked me about five times," Porac said. "He was grateful to be alive."

But Driesell wanted to do more to lift Gibson's spirits. He instinctively believed the best way to do that would be through basketball.

So, on a February night, Gibson returned to the lights.

Fans at last season's Maryland-Georgia Tech game at Comcast Center were greeted by the sight of Driesell accompanying a lumbering man in red sweat pants and matching sweat shirt onto the court. The crowd applauded — some fans stood — when Gibson's and Driesell's names were announced.

Gibson smiled as he reached the court. He held his walker with his left hand and looked into the stands. With his right hand, he raised an index finger high in the air.


On a humid afternoon last summer, Larry Gibson sat in a friend's backyard wearing shorts and a print shirt. He had brought an old team photo and a white jersey with "Maryland" across the front.

Occasionally, he looked over at his wife, as if for reassurance, as he talked about games from more than 30 years ago.

It speaks to the mysteries of the human brain that not even his doctor knows just how much he can remember. When basketball moments return to him, there is a satisfied look of recognition as if someone has momentarily turned up the volume to a favorite song.

Often, Gibson speaks a word or two and leaves it to others to uncover the meaning — the pictures in his mind's eye.

"North Carolina," he says. And then there is a pause. "We won that one," he says, nodding his head and smiling.



Gibson's condition

Larry Gibson's 2004 auto accident left him with a brain condition called abulia. The word is from the Greek meaning "non-will."

The condition, characterized by a lack of drive and expression, can sometimes be mistaken for depression. People with abulia will react — maybe even laugh — but are typically passive.

Dr. Michael Makley, director of Kernan Hospital's brain injury unit, said Gibson is limited but is reactive and "pretty content with life." He is not expected to make more significant progress.

"We all have a presence," Makley said. "We might be thinking about having a dentist appointment tomorrow or stopping to buy milk on the way home. I really think maybe he doesn't work on those parallel paths, but he's able to articulate and make funny jokes. He seems rather content, actually."

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