Jackson, Williams lead Hall of Fame induction class

Updated: September 8, 2007, 9:24 AM ET
Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Phil Jackson learned to coach from Red Holzman, and he practiced the craft on superstars like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.

"Who could have been more fortunate than I am, to have stumbled into this success?" Jackson said Friday night in his induction speech at the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jackson won nine NBA championships as a coach -- tying Red Auerbach for the record -- and one more as a player. But it was with the New York Knicks in their championship season of 1969-70, when Jackson was recovering from spinal fusion surgery, that he found his future calling.

Soaking up knowledge from his Hall of Fame mentor, Jackson developed the approach that allowed him to integrate lesser talents into a team with stars like Jordan and O'Neal.

"He treated the superstars and the role players in very much the same manner," said the Los Angeles Lakers' coach, who was using a cane because of offseason surgery to replace his left hip. "Everybody has to be treated with respect. But everybody has to be treated as individuals."

Jackson was inducted into the Springfield shrine on Friday night along with North Carolina coach Roy Williams; the 1966 NCAA champion Texas Western team; four-time WNBA championship coach Van Chancellor, the longtime women's coach at Mississippi recently hired by LSU; former NBA referee Mendy Rudolph; and international coaches Pedro Ferrandiz of Spain and Mirko Novosel of Yugoslavia.

Former USA Today, Chicago Tribune and New York Times writer Malcom Moran and longtime Phoenix Suns broadcaster Al McCoy were honored with the Curt Gowdy Media Award. Dikembe Mutombo was the first recipient of the Mannie Jackson--Basketball's Human Spirit Award, named for the Harlem Globetrotters chairman and given for using basketball to help the community.

Phil Jackson
Stephan Savoia/AP PhotoJackson was inducted Friday night into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Texas Western was the first team in NCAA history to win a title with five black players, beating an all-white Kentucky team in the 1966 final. The achievement is considered a turning point in the integration of college athletics, and it was the subject of the movie "Glory Road."

"Our only purpose was to be the best team in the country," said captain Harry Flournoy, who spoke on behalf of the team. "We didn't have a social agenda. But God had an agenda, and he chose us to open doors -- not only for black people, but for all people who had doors shut in their face."

Phil Jackson credited Holzman for teaching him to coach, and called his time with Johnny Bach and Tex Winter as assistants under Doug Collins in Chicago, "graduate school in basketball." But asked if Jordan was the reason he was in Springfield on Friday, Jackson said, "Yes, it is."

"It was the result, of course, of the magnificent play of Michael Jordan, who had the insight to incorporate his teammates, those lesser angels, into his realm," Jackson said in his speech.

Williams didn't have a single to to thank as much as a whole team. The longtime Kansas coach took the Jayhawks to four Final Fours but didn't win it all until he went to his alma mater and won the NCAA championship in 2005.

"I've heard folks say that seals the deal," Williams said. "Coach [Dean] Smith said, 'You're going to make it [into the Hall of Fame] as soon as you're eligible.' I said, 'Coach, that national championship is pretty big.' "

Williams has a 530-131 record and six coach of the year awards to his credit, with 15 straight 20-win seasons and 18 consecutive NCAA tournament berths. He's the third coach in NCAA history to take two schools to the championship game.

In an emotional speech, Williams thanked, "my family at home, and my family on the court."

"More than anybody who has ever stood before you, I am the luckiest man alive," Williams said. "Lou Gehrig said it and made it famous, but I feel it."

Mentioning former Kansas players Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz and Jacque Vaughn, Williams said, his voice cracking, "I failed you, because I didn't get you to the Final Four."

Novosel led Yugoslavia to three Olympic medals. "Don Pedro" Ferrandiz is credited with bringing the fast break to Europe while leading Real Madrid to a record 12 Spanish League titles and four European Cup championships.

Rudolph, who died in 1979, was the first referee to officiate more 2,000 NBA games, including eight All-Star Games and at least one game of the NBA Finals for 22 consecutive years. He also wrote the league's officiating manual and had a cameo in a Miller Lite commercial in which he ejected Celtics star Tommy Heinsohn from a bar.

"He was a referee, and we've got to love those guys, too," Williams said, "because somebody's got to do that job."

Auerbach was honored with a video tribute that featured Hall of Famer Bill Russell. Although the Celtics patriarch died on the eve of last season, Jackson jokingly said that Auerbach has been up to his old tricks this summer.

Noting that Kevin Garnett was traded from Minnesota to Boston by ex-Celtics star Kevin McHale, now the basketball boss of the Timberwolves, Jackson lamented that the old Celtics network was kept the Lakers from improving their team this summer.

"We lost out on the Kevin Garnett sweepstakes," Jackson joked. "Red Auerbach came out of the grave and told Kevin to give him to the Celtics so the Celtics can get back in the running. That was a blessing, that connection. We just didn't have the connection to make that happen for us."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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