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May 12, 2014

Coaches, pilot remembered after balloon crash

RICHMOND, Va. — The two University of Richmond basketball coaches killed in a hot-air balloon crash were a beloved long-time assistant who was part of one of the most revered moments in the program's history, and a woman who was hardly out of college and always cheerful and willing to help.

The pilot, Daniel T. Kirk, was also killed when the balloon drifted into a power line and burst into flames Friday. He had 20 years of flying experience and was affectionately known as "Capt. Kirk."

At the university's graduation Sunday, a moment of silence was held for the coaches — director of basketball operations Natalie Lewis and associate head coach Ginny Doyle.

As a senior for the Spiders, Doyle set an NCAA record — for men or women — by making 66 consecutive free throws, an accomplishment that earned her dubious recognition from CBS college basketball analyst Billy Packer.

Packer, an 81.9 percent free-throw shooter at Wake Forest, scoffed at the record on air and noted that women use a slightly smaller ball, which in his mind made it less impressive.

Hearing that Packer was going to be in Richmond on another matter, the school invited him to come shoot against Doyle, and about 1,200 fans watched the duel at the Robins Center on Feb. 2, 1992.

It was no contest: Doyle, using a men's ball, made 20 of 20, with only two of them touching the rim. Packer, to the delight of the crowd, missed eight of his 20 attempts.

Her record has since been broken, but years later her foul shooting, as well as her love of the game and her players, remained on display, according to Robert Fish, a Richmond alum who also has called women's games on radio.

Doyle, 44, was hired by Bob Foley at Richmond in 1999 and stayed on through a couple of coaching changes.

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