Stan Van Gundy discusses Harrison Butker on 'The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz' Screen grab: ‘The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz’

The first woman I ever loved tried to kill herself by overdosing on prescription medication. She lived. A friend of mine hung herself. She’s dead. So, when Stan Van Gundy said in an interview with Dan Le Batard on South Beach Sessions that his wife Kim took her own life, that reopened old wounds. The podcast was both simultaneously hard to listen to and important to listen to.

I saw Van Gundy last March during the NCAA tournament. He was in Indianapolis working as an analyst for TNT Sports. Having spoken to him previously over the phone, I planned to introduce myself in person. Doubt he would remember, but I wanted to express my appreciation for him taking the time to chat. But I never did talk with Van Gundy face-to-face. I chickened out because I was unsure of how to offer my condolences or if I should even mention the loss of his wife.

That’s how it is with suicide. We still don’t know how to talk about it openly and honestly.

Suicide is more common than you might think. Over the weekend, golfer Grayson Murray’s parents revealed that their son committed suicide. According to the latest government statistics, it’s one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In 2021, 1.7 million Americans attempted suicide. More than 48,000 died by suicide that year—that’s one every 11 minutes.

When someone you care about passes away from suicide, you experience a different kind of mourning because there isn’t a person to blame. If we do point the finger, it’s usually at ourselves for the illogical and erroneous belief that we should have done something more to save our mentally ill loved ones. We grapple with understanding, attempting to rationalize something that isn’t rational.

We usually don’t get the answers that might give us the tiniest peace of mind.

Van Gundy and Le Batard explore grief on the latest episode of South Beach Sessions. The podcast features some of Le Batard’s finest work primarily because he’s the perfect person to have this conversation with Van Gundy. The two have known each other for over a decade. Van Gundy has been a frequent guest on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. There’s a mutual trust that has been built over time. Van Gundy knew that this subject would be handled delicately and respectfully. Le Batard is also going through his own sorrow, having lost his brother David in August following a terminal illness.

Both men get understandably emotional during the podcast. One of the most poignant moments is when Van Gundy talks about the feelings of guilt associated with suicide while also acknowledging that he knows it’s not his fault.

“When I wake up in the morning and when I go to bed at night, my feeling is that. That’s a different thing. I’m not attaching an intellectual culpability to it. It’s an emotional thing that no matter how much I know, it just doesn’t feel that way. It feels like I let her down, and in the process, I let my kids down and even let myself down. It’s the feeling. I’m not saying that’s the way it is. I’m not saying even that I believe (that) because belief is an intellectual thing. I’m not saying that I believe that’s the way it is. I’m saying it feels like the way it is.”

Guilt lingers. You ruminate about every conversation, every moment you had with the person. You wonder about the signs you missed. But that’s assigning yourself a power that you don’t have. Intervention and treatment can only go so far. Once someone decides to commit the ultimate act, it can be difficult to stop them.

Van Gundy said in the podcast that he is undergoing therapy but wonders aloud: When will he feel better? Grief doesn’t have a set expiration date. Le Batard’s experience was different than his friend’s. But the two shared the common bond of asking questions when there are no easy answers. He had time to say a long goodbye to his brother. But the finality of death is still something that haunts him.

Le Batard said on the podcast: “I didn’t quite realize that there was no other relationship that I had like the one with my brother. I hadn’t given any consideration to the idea that it would ever be gone.”

The open vulnerability that Van Gundy and Le Batard displayed should be commended. It’s easier to bury this stuff and keep your pain to yourself. But by speaking candidly about suicide and grief, they are helping listeners. The pain of losing a loved one never goes away. But it does help a little knowing that someone else knows what you’re going through.

If you feel as though you need assistance, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or simply dialing 988 on your phone.

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.