Pitino, Payton lead Hall of Fame class
ATLANTA — Rick Pitino got the phone call of a lifetime and an incredible text at the same time.
Last Wednesday, John Doleva, the president of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, called seven people to tell them they'd be in the class of 2013.
Pitino was one of the seven.
“When I got the call I was trying to call my wife over so she could hear it and I'm trying to put it on speaker phone, and a text keeps beeping as I'm getting this special call,” Pitino said Monday just hours before he led Louisville against Michigan in the national championship game. “I saw the text. ‘Go Gophers. I got the job.' ”
It was his son, Richard, who had just found out he was chosen to be the head coach at Minnesota.
It's been that kind of week for Pitino, who is among 12 people overall who will join the class of 2013.
The others announced Monday at a ceremony at the Final Four were college coaches Guy Lewis of Houston, Jerry Tarkanian of UNLV and Sylvia Hatchell of North Carolina, former NBA stars Bernard King and Gary Payton and former University of Virginia star Dawn Staley.
The inductions will take place in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 8.
Inductees announced previously were: Edwin E.B. Henderson, a direct elect by the Early African Pioneer Committee; longtime Indiana Pacers guard Roger Brown; Oscar Schmidt of Brazil, the leading scorer in Olympic history; Richie Guerin, a star for the New York Knicks in the 1950s; and, Russ Granik, the longtime assistant commissioner of the NBA.
It was Pitino, however, who stole the show.
“I was looking around for lightning,” Pitino joked. “This was such a special moment.”
Pitino, the only coach to take three schools to the Final Four, has won 661 games in 28 seasons as a college coach and his 47-16 record in the NCAA Tournament is the third-highest winning percentage among active coaches.
He also had two stints in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
When he was a young assistant with the Knicks from 1983-85, Pitino forged a relationship with King, one of the most feared scorers in his playing days.
Payton was known as “The Glove” for his defensive prowess in his years with the Seattle SuperSonics. He was a two-time Olympic gold medalist.