If Andre Levingston hadn’t heard from John Strickland by 8 a.m. on a given day, he knew something was wrong.
“He would call every morning by 7 a.m. and say, ‘I’m up O, I’m up! I’m working!’” said Levingston, nicknamed O as owner of the Halifax Rainmen.
But something was wrong this week.
Strickland, a Rainmen fan-favourite who retired last month to take a job as the club’s director of basketball development, didn’t call Levingston on Tuesday. Or Wednesday.
“I sent him a series of emails and left him (phone) messages … ‘You sleepin’ in? You on vacation?’” Levingston said. “It didn’t sit right with me. He does not not return my calls. Ever.”
The call that came Thursday, from Strickland’s brother, was the call Levingston was dreading. Strickland, 38, had been found dead in his New York City home.
“I just lost it,” Levingston said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Levingston said Strickland died in his sleep, but no further details are available.
Levingston, who usually speaks with boundless enthusiasm, was subdued Thursday as he shared memories of his colleague and friend.
“There isn’t another John Strickland,” he said. “His New York slang, the way he speaks, he was just comical. He was always due for a laugh.”
The six-foot-eight forward wasn’t a star, averaging 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds in 36 games with Halifax. But his on-court antics made his No. 45 jersey popular, and fans chanted “MVP” every time he swaggered onto the court.
“He brings such a kind spirit,” Levingston said.
“He’s fun, he’s entertaining … it’s a huge loss, man. It’s indescribable.”