ASSOCIATED PRESS – George Karl lost 19 of his first 21 games as an NBA head coach. Tim Hardaway spent hours dribbling alone in an unfinished basement when it was too cold to go outside in his hometown of Chicago. Theresa Grentz’s family lost all their possessions in a house fire in 1970, leaving her with only the yellow pajamas she was wearing at the time.
There were no signs that basketball immortality awaited any of them.
Now, they are members of the most sought-after club in the game. Karl, Hardaway and Grentz are among 13 people who will be officially inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday night – a group largely associated with what they overcame on their way to a long list of accomplishments that includes NCAA Titles, NBA Titles and Olympic Gold Medals.
“You learn from adversity,” Grentz said Friday. “You don’t have to have everything perfect. You take what you have, make it work, make the most of what you have, not what you think you need. We were there, I had absolutely nothing, but tomorrow night – and I’m nervous about it – I’m going to the Hall of Fame.”
Karl was one of five people selected by the North American Committee, along with West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, the late referee Hugh Evans and longtime NBA stars Manu Ginobili and Tim Hardaway.
Swin Cash, Marianne Stanley and Lindsay Whalen were selected by the women’s panel. Longtime coaches Del Harris and Larry Costello were selected by the contributors committee, while six-time All Star Lou Hudson was selected by the veterans committee. Grentz – who played for the legendary Immaculata program and led Rutgers to the AIAW final title in 1982 – was selected by the veteran women’s committee and FIBA Hall of Famer Radivoj Korac by the international committee.
Karl’s NBA coaching career began in 1984 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, starting 0-9 and 2-19, but rallied that season to face Boston in the first round of the playoffs. The Celtics won the series 3-1 and Karl still believes the Celtics got favorable whistles.
“They got all the calls,” Carl lamented.
Maybe. But half a lifetime later, Karl got Hall’s call.
Harris’ coaching career has included him working with many Hall of Fame players – Rick Barry, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Yao Ming and Magic Johnson among them – along with some sure-fire future players like Dirk Nowitzki.
“To think that I still, in some way or another, contributed to the game and not just played it or coached it, is more humbling for me than anything else I would have thought about,” Harris said.
Hardaway was a finalist four more times for the Hall, never getting in. This year’s call from Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva was one he didn’t want to take, fearing he was going to go 0-for-5.
“Friction, sweat, a lot of emotion going on,” Hardaway said of that moment. “I saw the Hall of Fame number come through my phone. I didn’t want to answer the phone because I didn’t want to get another rejection.”
He’ll never have to worry about that again.
Whalen, a four-time WNBA champion and now the coach at her alma mater Minnesota, said one of the first great teams she saw in person was the 2002 UConn Huskies – a team that featured Cash. And it wasn’t lost on Whalen that he’s entering the Hall alongside Cash, Grentz and Stanley, who also played at Immaculata before embarking on long coaching careers.
“Me and Theresa, Marianne, Swin, going together, I think we represent a lot of what’s been great about women’s basketball over the years,” Whalen said. “And I think there are young girls and women right now who are sitting there watching us and that can become a realistic goal and dream for them if they work hard.”
Among the five presenters Cash chose to stand by her side at Saturday’s ceremony is her UConn coach, Geno Auriemma.
Cash praised Auriemma for his constant pursuit of nothing but excellence.
“You were trying to be the best, and practices were always harder than a game,” said Cash, a two-time NCAA champion, three-time WNBA champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and now part of a front office with the NBA. New Orleans Pelicans. “But that prepared you mentally to figure out what you wanted to achieve. And every year the bar was a panhellenic championship. With some people, the bar is a conference championship or “Hey, we made the tournament.” Whereas, in Connecticut, we hang banners.”
Also now inducted into the Hall are three selections made by the Early African American Pioneer Committee: Wyatt “Sonny” Boswell, Inman Jackson and Albert “Runt” Pullins – all of whom, among others, have been members of the Harlem Globetrotters.
Huggins – who, like Whalen, also coaches at his alma mater – deflected credit for his 916 career college coaching wins, 844 of those coming at the Division I level.
“Good players,” Huggins said. “I was lucky.”
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