Death of Bucknell Asst.'s Baby United Team

A thin, beaded bracelet encircles Bucknell assistant coach Bryan Goodman's left wrist. It's called a Princess Sophia bracelet -- a remembrance of the daughter he barely got to know and rarely even got to hold.

A strong, tight team encircles Goodman in a larger sense. What should be the best of times for a young basketball coach is playing out amid the worst of times for a young father. The players he calls his "little brothers" are doing their best to help him through it.

"I've needed this team this season much more than they've needed me," Goodman said Saturday in the Bucknell locker room at the American Airlines Center.

On Monday, Sophia Goodman died in the neonatal intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., about 15 miles from the Bucknell campus in Lewisburg. She and her three siblings -- Grace, Reece and Clark, all weighing less than two pounds at birth -- had been there since the quadruplets were born 15 weeks prematurely to Bryan and his wife, Amy, on Jan. 12.

Sophia's short life was filled with health problems. She was given last rites 17 days after birth, and Clark received last rites the next day. Every day has been steeped in worry for the parents.

The past two months, in fact, have been a riot of conflicting emotions and experiences for the 33-year-old Goodman: the exhilaration of childbirth; the overwhelming responsibility of fathering quadruplets; the anxiety over his children's health; the daily trips to the hospital to see the kids and to hold them for about an hour a day; the thrill of earning an NCAA Tournament berth; the heartbreak of a baby's death.

They had a memorial ceremony for Sophia on Tuesday. Half of Lewisburg showed up. So did the entire team.

"It was a very emotional day," point guard Abe Badmus said. "It wasn't easy for anybody. Everyone knows how great Coach Goodman and Mrs. Goodman are. Those people deserve a lot more.

"But tragedy sparks awareness. When you gain awareness, it brings people together, I think. It's unfortunate it works like that, but it does."

It worked like that for Badmus and teammates Charles Lee and Tarik Viaer-McClymont. They drove to and from the ceremony in Badmus' '99 Camry and found themselves in a discussion ranging far deeper than basketball.

"We were talking about life in general," Badmus said. "Things I never thought I'd say to my teammates, and things I never thought they'd say to me. You really bond in a moment like that."

The bond between the players and the assistant coach who recruited many of them has always been strong. Now it's even stronger. The guy who often has been the team's confidant and counselor, whose house near campus is a frequent stop for the players, is getting some of that back now.

"I'm not saying I'm through this, because I'm not," Goodman said. "But they've certainly helped."

After Sophia's death, Goodman wasn't planning on attending the Bison's first-round NCAA game against Arkansas on Friday. But Amy "pitched me out of the house," he said. "She insisted."

He arrived in Dallas on Thursday night, more than 24 hours after the team and less than 24 hours before tipoff.

"We were so glad to see him show up," Lee said.

Truth be told, Goodman needed to be here -- and the players needed to have "Goodie" in the locker room, needling them like usual. Laughter and smiles tend to follow Goodman wherever he goes, and there hadn't been nearly enough of that this week.

"I needed to talk to Charles Lee about something that's not to do with a breathing apparatus with one of my kids," he said. "If I'm laughing and giggling and hanging out with them, that's normal for them. If I'm not there, that's abnormal.

"We worked hard for this. From the first phone calls to Chris McNaughton to visiting Donald Brown … this is what we worked for. I didn't want to miss it."

He saw the work pay off in a second consecutive first-round triumph for Bucknell, one of the nation's least-likely basketball powers. The Bison controlled the entire game against bigger, more athletic Arkansas, then made just enough plays in the final minutes to hang on, 59-55.

The postgame scene in the locker room was much more muted than last year, when Bucknell shocked Kansas. This victory was more expected. But the emotion between Goodman and the players was palpable.

"I told him we did it for him," said Lee, who scored 24 points against Arkansas.

"He gave me a big hug and said, 'Thank you,' " guard Kevin Bettencourt said. "If we can put a smile on his face through basketball, that's great."

They put a smile on Amy Goodman's face as well. She watched the game with friends in Lewisburg and left Bryan a voice-mail message afterward, saying how happy she was for the team -- and how happy she was that he was there to be part of it.

"Then it was right back to reality," Bryan said. "Back to the hospital."

But here's the good news from Geisinger Medical Center: Since Sophia passed Monday night, the three surviving babies are all doing better. Grace came out of four-hour eye surgery with better results than the doctors had hoped. Clark, who along with Sophia had had the most physical problems, is "showing huge strides," Bryan said.

"I don't know if you believe in these sort of things," Goodman said, "but I think Sophia will sort of become their guardian angel."

The Goodman family will always have this group of Bucknell basketball players on their side as well.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for He can be reached at