BOZICH: Vitale Would Be Great Pick As Pitino Hall Presenter
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Honors Committee selects the incoming Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class every April. But that's not the final decision that must be made before each class is officially inducted in September at the Hall in Springfield, Mass.
Each inductee much select a presenter – and the only requirement is the presenter must also be a Hall of Fame member.
Who will the members of the 2013 class, which includes University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, select?
The word is that Gary Payton, one of 12 members in the 2013 class, has chosen former Utah guard John Stockton and George Gervin, who starred with the San Antonio Spurs. Payton and Stockton battled for years as the two best point guards in the Western Conference. Payton's respect for Stockton is reflected by his choice.
Many expect former Houston coach Guy Lewis to select Elvin Hayes and Clyde Drexler, two of his former players with the Cougars. Former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian has not made his choice yet.
Some inductees ask two, three or as many as four Hall of Famers to join them on the stage. Former U of L coach Denny Crum picked John Wooden. Michael Jordan, who played at North Carolina, chose, David Thompson, who played at North Carolina State.
The question locally is this: Who will Pitino choose for the Sept. 8 ceremony?
Here is my prediction for at least one of Pitino's presenters: Dick Vitale, who would handle the request with unbridled enthusiasm.
Pitino has not settled on his picks. He has a long list of friends in the Hall, starting with C. M. Newton, the former athletic director who recruited him to the University of Kentucky in 1989. Former Knicks and Kentucky Colonels coach Hubie Brown, who went into the Hall in 2005, is another guy Pitino admires.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is another Pitino friend – despite Boeheim's hilarious comment that Pitino was absent from the recent ACC meetings because he was still waiting for his colt (Goldencents) to finish the Kentucky Derby. (Or the Preakness, for that matter.)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Pitino were tied together forever after the 1992 Duke-UK East regional championship game in Philadelphia – and they talked about how that game helped build their friendship before Louisville defeated Duke in the Midwest Regional final in Indianapolis last March.
Pitino has long admired former Lakers' star Jerry West, another Hall of Famer. So is Crum, although he and Pitino are not particularly close.
But Vitale would be an excellent choice.
Nobody did more to argue publicly for Pitino's credentials than Vitale, who was voted into the Naismith Hall in 2008. He used his pulpit at ESPN to remind the basketball world of the remarkable work Pitino did at Boston University, Providence and UK as well as at U of L.
As a guy who gave up a college basketball head coaching job to try the NBA, Vitale has always been able to relate to the struggles that Pitino faced while trying to win with the Knicks and the Celtics.
Pitino's sixth Final Four appearance last season is apparently what convinced the Honors Committee to vote him into its 2013 class. But, on the air and off the air, Vitale has been arguing Pitino's credentials for at least five years.
The way Pitino was able to win at four college jobs – and in a variety of conferences; his ability to develop players; his success in March; his cutting edge approach in using the three-point shot as a decisive weapon, several years before other top coaches were willing to embrace the shot.
Nobody would give a better speech than Vitale. Rousing speeches are his specialty. He'd hit all the right notes – and do it with gusto. Guaranteed there would be a few folks reaching for the Kleenex.
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