1979 Penn basketball center Matt White killed in sleep, wife is charged
Teammates remember the Final Four squad's starting center
February 12, 2013, 11:41 pm·
Matthew White, 1979 College graduate and starting center on Penn’s 1979 Final Four men’s basketball team, was stabbed to death in his Delaware County home Monday morning.
According to the Associated Press, at around 12:45 a.m. Monday, White’s wife, Maria Rey Garcia-Pellon grabbed a knife which she had concealed under her side of the bed and stabbed her husband in the neck after he had fallen asleep. The two struggled and White collapsed on the bed after saying, “I’m dying, I’m dying,” police said.
Garcia-Pellon, who is currently in custody at the Delaware County Prison, is being charged with criminal homicide, possession of an instrument of crime, first-degree and third-degree murder.
Police said she went to a friend’s home after the alleged murder and said she had caught her husband viewing child pornography.
“I caught him looking at pornography, young girls. I love kids,” Garcia-Pellon told investigators according to AP. “I had to do it.”
A friend of Garcia-Pellon called the police after Garcia-Pellon came to her house and told her what had happened.
White played for the Quakers from 1976-79, and his death has left his former teammates in shock.
“He was always kind of probing and would push people’s buttons every so often just to see how you would react to comments,” White’s former teammate and 1981 College graduate Ted Flick said. “He was a debater, always trying to challenge you in things you would do off the court.”
“He was my road trip roommate my senior year,” 1978 College graduate and 1977-78 Ivy League Player of the Year Keven McDonald said. “I can remember many nights having spirited debates on every topic under the sun. Matt was also very good at giving me an honest appraisal of my performance after the game. And when I say honest, I mean honest.”
At 6-foot-11, White was the Quakers’ big man during some of the most glorious days in Penn basketball history.
“When we were making our march to the Final Four and we just won the final of the Eastern Regional against St. John’s, typically everybody’s out there cutting the nets down,” Flick said. “[But] he and I and another individual ran into the locker room after the game saying, ‘This is gonna be too nuts to be around,’ and we waited for the team to come in about 15 to 20 minutes later. He just did some things differently than everybody else.”
White’s former teammate and 1980 College graduate Bruce Bergwall said he was one of White’s closest friends.
“He was a trusted, loyal and gracious friend for over three and a half decades,” Bergwall said. “As a player, he really made basketball a contact sport. I spent most of my time as his punching bag backing him up on the red team. The blue team was starters and I was always on the red team. He was a very smart, savvy role player.”
“I still probably have bruises on my ribs from having tangled with him in the middle in practice,” McDonald said.
Bob Weinhauer, White’s coach on the 1979 Penn team, said in a statement that his thoughts and prayers go out to White’s two children.
“It was an honor to have been his coach at Penn and to see him develop into a great defensive player and an important member of the 1979 Final Four team,” Weinhauer said. “Obviously this is a very difficult time for all who knew Matt, but I prefer to remember his playing the piano in hotels we stayed in on the road or assisting me in coaching the alumni game last year at Penn … Matt will always be remembered as a true supporter of Penn Athletics. I am very sad that he has left us so soon.”
“We are greatly saddened to hear about the death of Matt White, and shocked by the details emerging about his death,” Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky said in a statement. “For Penn fans, Matt is a reminder of some of the greatest days of our historic men’s basketball program, the 1979 run to the NCAA Tournament Final Four, and he was a beloved member of the Penn men’s basketball family right up until his death. We had just seen him two weekends ago at our annual alumni event around our Feb. 2 game against Cornell. This is a sad, shocking day for us.”
White is survived by his son, Matt Jr., and his daughter, Ana, who currently plays lacrosse at Lafayette. According to Bergwall, many of White’s former teammates are working with Lafayette Athletics to try to help provide for Ana’s well-being while White’s brother is vacationing out of the country.