LOS ANGELES, FEB. 2 -- The murkiness surrounding the events leading to the death of Loyola Marymount basketball star Hank Gathers has become somewhat penetrated in the deposition testimony of Vernon Hattori, the cardiologist who treated him.

Excerpts of Hattori's deposition, taken in connection with a wrongful-death suit filed by the Gathers family, detail a doctor-patient relationship that, in many cases, could only be verified by Gathers.

Hattori said in his deposition that two days before Gathers's death, he was so concerned about the dosage level of Gathers's heart medication that he told then Loyola Marymount coach Paul Westhead that he would not allow Gathers to play in the West Coast Conference tournament. Hattori said it was a hollow threat, designed to get Gathers's attention because he had failed to show up for a testing appointment and did not return Hattori's phone calls.

Gathers collapsed March 4 playing in a tournament game and died shortly thereafter. An autopsy listed the cause of death as cardiomyopathy, a heart disorder. Members of the Gathers family are suing Loyola, Westhead, Hattori and 11 others for negligence.

Hattori said that on Friday, March 2, he phoned Westhead's office and left a message for either Gathers or Westhead. He later spoke with Westhead and Chip Schaefer, Loyola's trainer.

"I explained to them that I was irate that Hank had missed his appointments all week, that I had serious doubts if I could let him play because he had not come for his evaluation over the weekend, which was the tournament, and that it was absolutely, absolutely imperative that I talk to Hank," Hattori said in his deposition.

Hattori said he had reduced the dosage of Gathers's heart medication, Inderal, from 40 milligrams twice a day to 20 milligrams twice a day on Monday, Feb. 26, but only with the stipulation that Gathers would undergo testing on Wednesday to determine if the lower dosage was effective and safe.

Inderal -- a beta-blocker that helps slow the heart rhythm -- can cause a side effect of sluggishness. A lower dose can cause fewer side effects and, in Gathers's situation, might have improved his basketball performance.

"My feeling at that point was that since Hank had not had his tests, and at this point it was almost logistically impossible -- realizing it was late in the afternoon -- to have this testing done prior to his Saturday game, it was my intent on increasing his medication back to 40 {milligrams} twice a day. . . . It was never my intent not to let him play. I inferred that purposely to the coaches to try to get their attention to try to get Hank on the phone."

Hattori said that Gathers called him Friday about 6 p.m. and told him he hadn't been in because he and teammate Bo Kimble had been busy.

"I told him that he had blown it," Hattori said. "I used that term specifically. That the 20 b.i.d. {twice daily} dosage reduction was -- had not been tested. I emphasized to him we always tested the dosage we used. I told him therefore I couldn't let him play on 20 b.i.d., and that I wanted him to increase his dosage to 40 tonight and then 40 b.i.d. there on until we tested him again."

Hattori said that Gathers laughed and said, "No, no, no. I feel great."

Hattori replied: "I said, 'I know. I talked to the coach. You are playing much better. But that's not the point.' "

Hattori said that Gathers said: " 'No. I feel much better. I can tell my heart is not racing at all. . . . ' So we continued to debate whether he should be on 20 or on 40. His point was that he knew how he felt, he knew the medicine was working, he was playing better," Hattori said. "I emphasized to him several times that I had no way of documenting whether in fact the medication was working.

"He {Gathers} said, 'Is there any way we could do a treadmill now?' I said, 'No.'

"He said, 'Could I get a Holter {heart monitor test} in the morning?' I said, 'No.'"

Hattori had made plans to go out of town for the weekend for his bachelor party.

Hattori said at that point they talked some more about whether Gathers should go back on the higher dosage of medication.

Then Hattori asked Gathers: " 'Hank, if you play on the lower dosage, do you promise if you start to feel anything you will take yourself out of the game immediately?' He {Gathers} said -- he swore up and down that he would do that.

"And finally I said to him, 'Okay, why don't you go ahead and play on 20 b.i.d. Continue that dosage.' And he promised to come into the office Monday for testing, either Monday or Tuesday, whenever was -- the last game was on that day. . . . Then I wished him good luck, and that was the end of the conversation, as I recall."