Michigan’s road to the Final Four has not been particularly improbable, but the journey of student coach Austin Hatch has been.
Hatch’s life was irreversibly changed at the age of 8, ESPN reports. His family was flying home from their lake house, and his dad was piloting. The plane crashed trying to land. Hatch’s mother, older sister and younger brother all died that day. He only survived because his dad threw him to safety.
Years later, at the age of 16 Hatch accepted a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Michigan. His family wanted to celebrate the momentous occasion. Hatch’s father had since remarried.
Once again, Hatch’s dad was piloting the plane and it tragically crashed. His dad, step-mom, and one of their two dogs were killed in this plane accident.
Austin Hatch had brain damage so severe, doctors thought he could be permanently bedridden.
University of Michigan head coach, John Beilein, honored the scholarship he had promised to Hatch, according to ESPN.
Thank you coach B for being the man you are. You have the highest level of integrity I have ever seen. Shown not only by your commitment to me, but also by how you lead our team every day. You set an example of what servant leadership looks like. Character Wins. #GoBlue
— Austin Hatch (@AustinHatch30) March 27, 2018
After the second plane crash, Hatch’s brain could no longer process the speed of the game, although he was relatively fine otherwise. His career at Michigan practically ended before it began.
During his freshman year, Hatch was still on the active roster. He even appeared in five games that season, scoring one point during a game against Coppin State back in 2015.
According to an article by the New York Post, “Before his sophomore season, he went on a medical scholarship, saying, ‘My body can’t execute what my mind tells it to do. I can think the game as well as I ever did; I just can’t drive baseline and dunk anymore.'”
Hatch is now a senior at the University of Michigan. Last month, when the team honored all the seniors on the team, Hatch was included. He warmed up pregame with the team and received a standing ovation.
Michigan senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman told the NY Post, “He’s such an inspiration to us. He tries to uplift us. We’re really glad he’s on our team.”
While Hatch only sat on the bench during home games, Beilein included Hatch during March Madness.
Thank you to all of the Michigan family for an incredible four years at Michigan. No better place, no better team, no better staff and no better leader to spend four years with than my teammates & coaches, led by coach B, at Michigan. You changed my life forever #GoBlue https://t.co/02RJDBPT0l
— Austin Hatch (@AustinHatch30) February 19, 2018
Hatch was there, on the bench, when freshman guard Jordan Poole made a deep three pointer over Houston University to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
And Austin Hatch will be on the bench this weekend to watch his team take on Loyola-Chicago to advance to the NCAA Final.