Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Tarkanian’

Hall Voting Process Still Lacks A Lot




With 12 new inductees recently shepherded into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and a total of 325 players, coaches, referees and contributors already enshrined, you might think it would be hard to find deserving candidates who have been overlooked, though our man in Springfield, Mass., Scott Howard-Cooper, compiles a pretty compelling list.

Here are three more glaring omissions from the hoops Hall, long overdue for embracing:

Transparency.

Accountability.

Consistency.

For all the work that chairman Jerry Colangelo has done in swinging open the Hall’s doors to neglected candidates in recent years, the voting process itself leaves much to be desired. It remains the least satisfying of the major sports’ Halls because it lacks the above traits in sufficient quantity. And its persistence as such requires that the topic be revisited year after year.

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for all the heat it takes and the presumed idiosyncrasies of its electorate, at least has numbers on its side; there were 569 ballots cast in the 2013 election, cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Many of the voters write about and discuss both their eligibility and their ballots, hitting on the transparency and accountability aspects mentioned above. And the fact that it is a lifetime privilege assures a sense of consistency across decades in the working definition of a Hall of Famer, as baseball sees it.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, narrows its actual selection process down to something more closely approaching a smoke-filled room. Voters hail from the league’s 32 member markets, along with a representative of the Pro Football Writers Association and 13 at-large members appointed by the Hall. Eventually, this Board of Selectors ends up meeting face-to-face to cut down a list of nominees to 15 finalists, with two more added by a Seniors committee. They debate the candidates’ merits, finally settling on four to seven inductees in a given year. Again, most of the selectors are known to the public, the coverage of the process is extensive on the eve of the Super Bowl and voters continue until they resign or die. More transparency, accountability and consistency.

The Naismith Hall, by contrast, is a black box, a star chamber of a select group of voters hand-picked by the Hall administration that serves only for three years. The process lacks all three traits – transparency, accountability and consistency – as described recently by the Boston Globe’s John Powers:

To accomplish all of the expansion, patching, and filling, the Hall has created a complex system of seven screening committees, five of which elect members directly, in addition to a 24-member Honors Committee that chooses the North American and women’s inductees after they’ve been vetted by the Board of Trustees.

But unlike the other Halls, the Naismith doesn’t divulge its voters’ names, and asks that they keep mum themselves. “I have no problem with going public with who they are but they don’t want to,” says Colangelo, who favors making the process both more inclusive and transparent. “They’re afraid of relationships and being hustled.”

The Hall will disclose the committees’ makeup — Hall of Famers, basketball executives, media members, and other contributors to the game. Yet with nearly half of the inductees chosen by specialized panels, some observers believe that the public should know who’s doing the picking.

“The idea that you’re going to vote something that significant and people aren’t going to know who votes is absurd,” says writer Jack McCallum, a former voter and Gowdy Media Award winner.

Next year, the basketball Hall will add a component of fan participation to the voting process,  with the intent of boosting its marketing profile even while it limits the impact of the great unwashed. The Hall’s doors are swung so wide now that glaring omissions have been reduced — most on Howard-Cooper’s list likely will be invited in the next few years — leaving the fans’ participation to mere chatter.

Baseball generates the most chatter, largely because its Hall voting is done essentially by a third party (the BBWAA), largely independent of the leagues and the teams. That turns the process each winter into another facet of baseball’s Hot Stove League, all the speculation and wrangling that accompanies trades and free agency and keeps the sport in the headlines even when its diamonds are covered in snow.

Basketball’s approach is too closely held, keeping the public and the media at arm’s length. It feels like a stacked deck at times, with no way to track a candidate’s improving or declining chances across several years, no chance to connect the dots between voter grudges and a player’s or a coach’s true worthiness. Why, for instance, did Jerry Tarkanian get in now, after being snubbed for so long? Did he have to serve some probation for his “NCAA renegade” reputation, or did the voting body simply change around him?

The method is unlikely to change substantially anytime soon. Colangelo seems satisfied with the results, and NBA commissioner David Stern‘s appreciation of Hot Stove League chatter amped up by the new CBA won’t likely persuade him. That’s too bad, because it could pack a lot more passion and further stoke fans’ appreciation and understanding of the game’s most legendary figures.

Admiring and respecting those folks is fine. Arguing, debating, lobbying, agonizing and celebrating, though, moves the emotional needle way more.

Hall Enshrinement Especially Meaningful

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The emotions that filled Symphony Hall were as in-your-face as Gary Payton, as persistent as Jerry Tarkanian, as touching as the words of Elvin Hayes, as dignified as the memory of Roger Brown and with as much flair for the dramatic as Oscar Schmidt.

By the time the 12 new members of the Hall of Fame gathered on stage Sunday afternoon for the traditional group shot to conclude the enshrinement festivities, something was clearly different. Every year is unique, of course — Reggie Miller tugging at hearts, the sideshow that is Dennis Rodman, the sparkle of the Dream Team reuniting for a group induction. Not like this, though.

This meant something unlike any other time in recent years.

Tarkanian is fighting serious health issues. His family said they specifically noticed an improvement after the coach, best known for his work at UNLV, got word in the spring he would be inducted. As the ceremony approached, and he fought back after a scare, it seemed to be another boost. Once “Tark” got here, after all the years of refusing to be worn down by the NCAA, after previously coming off the Hall ballot from a lack of support, he got an embrace that was one of the warmest moments of the last several enshrinements.

His wife read a note from Jerry in a taped acceptance speech and the 83-year-old Tarkanian added a few sentences on his own in a weak voice: “I have loved the game of basketball since my earliest memories. Basketball has been good to me. I’ve been able to be comrades with some fine individuals in the coaching profession. Sure we can be firey and competitive, even argumentative, but we all loved the game. That special game of basketball. Deep down, we’ll … understand the other. Thank you for your friendship. Finally, thank you, Hall of Fame, for giving me a special honor. It means so much to me, to our players, fans, coaches and staff. We are part of you. That makes us very happy and very proud.”

The standing ovation started before the house lights were all the way up. He came on stage with a walker, next to his presenters, Bill Walton and Pete Carril. And when Tark turned to face the audience, the cheers got even louder.

Guy V. Lewis is having difficult days, too. The 91-year-old former University of Houston coach was unable to speak, leaving it to Hayes, sitting next to Lewis, to deliver an eloquent taped tribute to his former coach. When Lewis was brought on stage in a wheelchair and moved in front of three of his Cougars — Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the Big E — the crowd responded with loud applause in tribute.

When North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell got her turn, she noted how Pat Summitt was supposed to be one of her presenters, only to have to decline when the former coaching legend of the Tennessee Lady Vols, forced into retirement by early-onset dementia, was unable to make the trip. Hatchell asked the audience to send Summitt needed support with a round of applause that could come through the television. Done.

Brown’s family got to see the former Pacers star inducted posthumously as a deserving salute after he had been banned by the NBA as a college freshman and spent years playing AAU ball before joining the fledgling ABA. This day was a vindication.

Schmidt was here about 4 ½ months after a second surgery to remove a brain tumor. Ever the showman, he stepped to the podium, closed his eyes and stood in silence for about 14 seconds before speaking. Having already described how he was so overwhelmed to get news of his election while driving that he had to pull over, having already called the weekend the highlight of his career, the former Brazilian scoring sensation delivered a speech of humor — an appreciation for his presenter, Larry Bird, and ultimately choking up and getting watery eyes when speaking to his wife in the audience.

Payton walked the red carpet upon arrival with close friends Jason Kidd and Brian Shaw – and John Stockton was one of his presenters — so there needed to be a pickup game for the ages going on somewhere after the ceremony. The acceptance speech that eventually followed was exactly what Payton promised, with a little from his alter-ego “The Glove,” the trash-talking point guard playing with a chip on his shoulder, and the mature older man he wanted to show off to make the ceremony mean something more than enshrinement.

The Glove: “As players, we dream of this moment, but we don’t expect to be standing here. But I really, really liked my chances of being here. It’s amazing. This is really happening for me.”

Mature older man: “Few things meant as much to me as my ability to play this game. I bared my soul on the court. I played hard because I wanted to win every time. And sometimes I didn’t come off so pretty. I said things I know I can’t repeat. Plus, I don’t want the guys in the booth to say I can’t say it. So it’s good. Listen, I really didn’t mean any harm, at least not bodily. I’m sure there are some coaches, teammates, opponents, referees and probably management out there who might feel otherwise, though. It was all for my crazy love for the game and my lack of maturity to be able to express my passion any other way. I don’t regret the way I went about it and I’m a strong man today as a result. But I can’t help but think I could have given more to the game that have so much to me. My career is complete. Gary Payton is evolving. But GP is in the Hall of Fame. Thank you.”

Tarkanian Plans To Attend Enshrinement

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Jerry Tarkanian, who has been battling serious health problems for years and had a pacemaker and stents inserted in his heart after being rushed to the hospital in July, is planning to attend his Hall of Fame enshrinement next month, his son said.

Whether the former UNLV, Long Beach State and Fresno State coach, who also had a 20-game stint with the Spurs in 1992-93, will be able to speak at the Sept. 8 ceremony in Springfield, Mass., has not been determined. But, Danny Tarkanian said, “unless something happens” his father will “absolutely” make the trip as one of the 12 members of the Class of 2013.

“We’re hoping he’s going to be able to speak on his own,” Danny Tarkanian said Monday. “It’s going to be a close call. Some days he’s having a good day, other times he’s not. It’s hard to tell. He’s made great progress the last five days…. We’re hoping he will be strong enough to walk up there, with a walker, to give the speech.”

If Tark is unable to speak at the ceremony, someone will accept on his behalf, as has been with the case in the past if an honoree was too ill or unable to attend.

“It means a lot to him,” Danny Tarkanian said of his father’s long road to Springfield, a wait so long that the 83-year-old former coach was removed from the ballot for lack of support before returning to consideration on the latest ballot and getting the necessary support. “I think he was very happy when it happened. I don’t think he’s as cognizant as he would have been a few years ago. But this has picked him up spiritually.”

The choice for the presenter, who will accompany Tark to the stage but has no speaking role?

Bill Walton, in more than a little bit of irony.

“It is,” Danny Tarkanian said. “And it’s a nice irony, actually.”

Though Jerry Tarkanian had the ultimate respect for John Wooden and Wooden held his up-and-coming rival at Long Beach in such high regard that Wooden recommended Tark for the Indiana job that went to Bob Knight, the Tarkanian camp always held UCLA responsible for turning the NCAA on Tarkanian. The blame went to powerful athletic director J.D. Morgan and not Wooden, and Walton had not yet started his varsity reign, but Tarkanian picking a Bruin for the honor is good stuff for the history books.

That it would be Walton the individual, though, is no surprise. Walton was an early supporter, saying in the 1970s that the NCAA was unfairly targeting Tarkanian during years of pursuit, and they grew closer when Tarkanian began to spend several months a year in San Diego, Walton’s hometown, in addition to Las Vegas. When Tark had a serious health scare in San Diego and was hospitalized approximately six weeks, Walton kept in contact to see if he could help in any way.

“What we try to do now is we look back on all the positive things,” Danny Tarkanian said. “And a guy like Bill Walton, what he’s done, to have the chance that he would be the one to introduce him, is the best.”

A Trend For Coaches In Hall Election?

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Jerry Tarkanian
, 82, was in Atlanta for the official announcement, needing a walker to get to the podium and struggling to climb a few stairs before sitting on stage in a chair. Guy Lewis, 91, was sort of there, unable to travel from his Houston home but joining in via phone call a speaker to share his thoughts with the entire ballroom of the skyscraper hotel.

Rick Pitino was in Atlanta on Monday too, although the Louisville coach would have been anyway. Something about a work commitment later in the night.

The wave of coaches going into the Hall of Fame, now officially headed for enshrinement as members of the Class of 2013 with Gary Payton and Bernard King from the North American committee that handles most candidates with NBA ties, was impossible to miss. Not just that Tarkanian and Lewis had made it to Springfield, Mass., after long waits. It’s that more coaches were elected than players.

This is a change – one coach made it through the two-stage voting process last year (Don Nelson), two did in 2011 (Tex Winter, Herb Magee), one in 2010 (Bob Hurley Sr. from the high school ranks), one in 2009 (Jerry Sloan) and one in 2008 (Pat Riley). Maybe it’s just how the process played out this year, with no particular deeper meaning other than a lot of room for enshrinement with Payton as the only mortal lock on the ballot and voters sticking to the recent emphasis from the Hall to reconsider past omissions. So, Lewis was elected after retiring in 1986 and Tarkanian after retiring in 2002, and Tark had been up for consideration so many times that he was removed for a lack of support before becoming eligible again this cycle.

But if this is a hint of a new direction from the process kept secret to the point that vote totals are not even released, the possibilities just became endless from the NBA side alone.

If Tom Heinsohn (427-263, two titles with the Celtics) made it through the first round of balloting before falling short of receiving at least 18 of 24 votes for enshrinement, the case for Rudy Tomjanovich (527-416, two titles with the Rockets, plus an Olympic gold) got a lot better. John Bach, Bill Fitch, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Dick Motta were also nominated this year through the North American committee, while Bob (Slick) Leonard was a candidate in the ABA category and Al Attles, Del Harris and Gene Shue were considered via the Contributor field.

The future options are the most intriguing of all. Gregg Popovich has yet to be nominated, by his preference, just as Sloan for years asked people not to put him on the ballot. Similar to Sloan finally relenting when he could be inducted with John Stockton, maybe Popovich starts to make Springfield once Tim Duncan retires in eight or 10 years. Then Pop can enter the Hall while hoping no one notices him.

George Karl has not been nominated, not by his choice. He would have to receive strong support. Rick Adelman has not been nominated, an especially relevant detail days after he became the eighth coach to win 1,000 games and everyone except Karl who has reached the milestone is in the Hall. A potential Adelman candidacy might be hurt as one of the most non-networking guys in the league, when being clubby appears to help the process for some, but getting to a grand would be difficult to overlook. (It didn’t help Nelson for years, though.) John Calipari, now at Kentucky but formerly a head coach with the Nets and an assistant with the 76ers, is not on the ballot either.

For now, the only certainty is that Tarkanian, Pitino and Lewis will be inducted with Payton and King, after his own long wait, Sept. 8, along with the two enshrinees from the Women’s committee revealed Monday, North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell and former star guard Dawn Staley. They will all join the five people whose elections were announced in February: Roger Brown (ABA), Edwin B. Henderson (Early African American Pioneers), Oscar Schmidt (International), Richard Guerin (Veterans) and Russ Granik (Contributor).

What happens in the next Hall voting cycle, though, just became a trend to watch.
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Payton, King, Others Elected To Hall

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Former scoring star Bernard King and coaches Jerry Tarkanian and Guy Lewis have been elected to the Hall of Fame after long waits as the Springfield, Mass., basketball museum continued its stated mission of new chances for candidates that have been overlooked in the past. Those three, along with expected inductee Gary Payton and active coach Rick Pitino, headline the Class of 2013.

Maurice Cheeks, Tim Hardaway, Spencer Haywood, Tom Heinsohn (as a coach, after previously making it as a player) and Mitch Richmond failed to receive at least 18 votes from 24 anonymous panelists from around the NBA and college game that decide the finalists from the North American committee.

In the other results announced Monday in Atlanta as part of the Final Four, North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell and former star guard Dawn Staley were elected via the Women’s committee. They were the only finalists.

The just-announced inductees will be enshrined Sept. 8 in Springfield with the winners announced in February from other categories: Roger Brown (ABA), Edwin B. Henderson (Early African American Pioneers), Oscar Schmidt (International), Richard Guerin (Veterans) and Russ Granik (Contributor).

King’s election comes 20 years after his retirement, while Lewis, who coached 29 future NBA players at the University of Houston, left the sideline in 1986. Tarkanian last coached in 2002. Tarkanian, best known for his college work but also the coach of the Spurs for 20 games at the start of 1992-93, has been on the ballot so many times that he was removed for a lack of support before becoming eligible again this voting cycle.

Payton was the closest thing to a first-ballot automatic since Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen in 2010, an impossible candidate to deny after Dennis Rodman and then Reggie Miller both failed to make the finalist’s list their first year of eligibility but then went all the way to induction in the second. Being chosen for the All-Star game nine times and voted first-team All-Defense nine teams meant Payton would get no such rookie hazing.

The announcement of Pitino’s election came hours before his team, Louisville, will play for the national championship a few miles away in Atlanta. The former coach of the Knicks and Celtics is the only person to take three different schools to the men’s Final Four.
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Hall of Fame Debate: Jerry Tarkanian

He is obviously much more of a candidate from the college ranks, but Jerry Tarkanian did have the cameo as coach of the Spurs at the start of 1992-93. It lasted all of 20 games before being fired by Red McCombs amid a conflict over the roster and Tarkanian’s struggles in transitioning to the pro rules. So there is an NBA connection, however brief and forgettable.

Tarkanian is, at the very least, deserving of serious discussion for the Hall of Fame by any classification. He has returned to the ballot for the Class of 2013 after being removed due to a lack of support, which is noteworthy enough, except that the new chance also comes as the 82-year-old Tark struggles with his health. That has created a renewed emotional push from his many backers.

Election obviously won’t be easy, as underlined by previous failed attempts. A maximum of 10 of the 31 nominees in the North American Committee, the panel that judges most with NBA and NCAA backgrounds, will be announced as finalists at All-Star weekend next month in Houston, before another group of anonymous voters chooses the inductees. Those winners will be revealed at the Final Four in April in Atlanta.

Tarkanian has one national title, four trips to the Final Four and a .790 winning percentage in Division I to his credit. He also has the long, much-publicized history of meeting the NCAA at high noon through the years. Given the NCAA’s track record, that doesn’t necessarily make him wrong, and Tark was vindicated when the governing body paid him a $2.5 million settlement in 1998, but some Hall voters come from the college sector. They possibly even come from the NCAA itself. And even if the judges don’t come from the national body, there could be disapproval of the way Tarkanian ran his programs at Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State.

Setting a toe inside the NBA is nothing more than a blip by now. Tarkanian had gone to San Antonio after 19 seasons in Las Vegas and the winningest coach in Division I by percentage (.836), only to start 9-11. The Spurs were hampered by injuries — Terry Cummings, Willie Anderson — but Tarkanian chipped away at whatever patience McCombs may have had by publicly criticizing management for failing to deliver an upgrade from Vinny Del Negro at point guard.

John Lucas, another bold hire, took over in San Antonio. Tarkanian became coach at Fresno State, his alma mater, in 1995, and led the Bulldogs to six consecutive 20-win seasons before retiring in 2002. The program was later put on probation for violations committed while Tarkanian was coach.

Hall of Fame Debate: Most Deserving

The updated rankings, following last week’s release of the nominees for the Class of 2013 in Springfield, Mass., includes one stretch and one asterisk pick, but the premise is the same as the standings from last April in the wake of the election for the Class of 2012: The order of most deserving among candidates on the ballot with NBA or ABA ties.

The fine print is important. This list does not weigh cases from the amateur and women’s game or most from the International, Early African-American Pioneers and Veterans categories. It’s NBA and ABA. And, it’s people under consideration by voters, not anyone deserving of induction. Gregg Popovich and David Stern, among others, have made it clear they do not yet want to be nominated, just as Jerry Sloan held out for years before finally agreeing in 2009 to undergo the discomfort of friends and peers saying nice things about him.

There is obviously a new No. 1 that creates a domino effect, now that Gary Payton is under consideration, and also alterations lower on the list after the inclusion of other new and renewed nominees or simply a change of thinking. Plus, Mark Jackson is off the Hall ballot after failing to get a single vote from nine panelists in three consecutive years. (Jackson was always a long shot for enshrinement – consistently good, never great – but No. 3 on the career assist list has to at least get someone away from 0 for 27.)

The outcome of the first round of voting for the North American committee, which handles most nominees with an NBA background, will be announced at All-Star weekend, with the survivors then advancing to a final layer of balloting before inductees are revealed at the Final Four. Candidates via the ABA committee face a single ballot before a maximum of one winner is named at All-Star.

1. Payton, North American committee: The Glove was selected first-team All-Defense by coaches nine consecutive times in the 1990s and 2000s, All-NBA twice and Defensive Player of the Year once as chosen by the media, and part of two Olympic golds and one NBA championship. The anonymous Hall voters have been hard lately on first-ballot nominees – Dennis Rodman went from not making finalist in 2010 all the way to being elected in ’11 and Reggie Miller had the same bounce back from 2011 to ’12 – but giving Payton the same rookie hazing would generate the largest outcry yet.

2. Bernard King, North American: He averaged 22.5 points despite two serious knee injuries, finished better than 20 a game in 11 different seasons and was also a scoring star at Tennessee, an important consideration in a process where college achievements count. King was first-team All-NBA only twice and second-team once, but he played at the same time Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Dominique Wilkins were working forwards. (more…)

Armen Gilliam Dead At 47

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Armen Gilliam, the No. 2 pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 1987 NBA Draft, died Tuesday night after collapsing during a pickup game at a Pittsburgh-area health club, a story first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Gilliam was 47.

After starring at UNLV, where his No. 35 jersey was retired in 2007, Gilliam played 13 NBA seasons with six different teams. The 6-foot-9 power forward, nicknamed the “Hammer,” played for the Suns,  Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz.

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