The home-invasion slaying of Washington Redskins defensive back Sean Taylor last week started conversations at many levels about the dangers of public life, about the need for security and the far greater need for ways to end the patterns of senseless tragedy.

The latest death also triggered some painful memories.

For 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks, the memory was of his brother, Marvin, who was shot to death in an apparent robbery in Chicago in 1991.

"That was extremely hard for me from a personal standpoint," Cheeks recalled before last night's 88-79 loss to the Atlanta Hawks. "I was still a player with the Hawks, and I was able to go home, to stay with my family."

For Hawks coach Mike Woodson, Taylor's death brought him back to Oct. 15, 2005, and a phone call at 5 a.m., rousing him from sleep.

Jason Collier, the Hawks' backup big man, had died. An autopsy showed he had died from a "sudden heart rhythm disturbance caused by an abnormally enlarged heart."

"Mike had to raise people up every day," Cheeks said. "That had to be an unbelievable situation."

There was no violence involved in the death of Collier. Only sheer tragedy. On May 20, 2000, on a highway in St. Louis Park, Minn., a drunk driver going the wrong way took the life of NBA player Malik Sealy.

The stories are all different and, at the same time, all the same. Productive young lives gone too soon.

"It was tough times," Woodson said, thinking back to Collier.

"I don't wish that on anyone, any organization or any coach when you lose a player unexpectedly like that.

"Not a day goes by personally for me as a coach, as I walk in [Philips Arena in Atlanta] or go in the players' lounge and see his picture, that I don't think about him.

"We were a young team. It was tough on everybody, but with me being the head coach I tried to be strong for everybody. I know what the players were going through. They lockered next to [Collier], used the same showers; they did fun things together outside and off the court, [going to] movies, hanging out for dinner. It was probably tougher on them than it was on me.

"We just bonded together as a unit, a family and tried to fight our way through it."

The Philly connection

When Larry Brown left the Sixers in 2003, the coaching successor came down to Randy Ayers and Mike Woodson.

Ayers, now an assistant with the Washington Wizards, got the job. Woodson got a job as an assistant to Brown with the Detroit Pistons.

Woodson, though, doesn't look back anymore. "My path has been so good, I couldn't wish [for] anything different," he said.

"When I left here, I was able to go with Larry to Detroit and we had a successful run there and I was able to get [the Hawks'] job.

"You can't go back and undo what has already been done. [The Sixers] gave me an opportunity to interview for that job, and that meant a great deal to me at that particular time." *