Barkley, Manning, Vitale, Richardson among Hall inductees
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Charles Barkley isn't afraid to talk about race, readily explains how dumb college basketball players are for leaving school, and doesn't hesitate in making fun of NBA players when they do something foolish.
A man of many words, Barkley had just a few when he was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday night.
"This is a really cool honor," he said. "I've had obviously a magnificent life and this is just more icing on the cake."
Barkley was honored with a 2008 class that included former Kansas star Danny Manning, Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson and longtime Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan. Former Utah All-American Arnie Ferrin also entered the college hall, as did announcers Dick Vitale and Billy Packer as contributors.
In a room full of basketball dignitaries that included Bob Knight, John Thompson and Kansas coach Bill Self, Barkley was arguably the biggest draw -- ESPN's Vitale was probably a close second. He lived up to his outsized character during the ceremony, answering questions from hosts Seth Davis and Dan Shulman with a series of one-liners and self-deprecating humor.
That same outgoing personality is what helped keep Barkley's presence from diminishing after a hall of fame NBA career. He became an outspoken commentator, a wisecracking pitchman and late-night talk show guest.
But before he became a multimedia presence, Barkley was a pretty good college player.
Generously listed at 6-foot-5, Barkley led Auburn to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 1984, the same year he was an All-American and the Southeastern Conference player of the year. Often facing players six inches taller, Barkley led the SEC in rebounding three years straight and set the Auburn career record for career field goal shooting at 62.4 percent.
"He impressed me as one of the most outstanding big guys I had ever seen," Richardson said.
At the opposite end of the attention-getting spectrum is Manning.
He's been credited with single-handedly leading Kansas to the 1988 national championship, playing one of the greatest games in NCAA tournament history with 31 points, 18 rebounds, five steals and two blocked shots in the title game.
Despite winning the Wooden and Naismith awards along with being a two-time All-American, Manning never liked the attention that came with being part of "Danny and the Miracles." The 6-foot-10 forward shied away from the media, particularly after his career, returning to coach at his alma mater and helping Kansas win a national title last season.
"Awards like this are very special," Manning said. "You have to be a little fortunate to receive them. You have to be with a team that is very unselfish. That is certainly something I had a chance to experience."
Vitale had a nice college coaching career, leading the University of Detroit to the 1977 NCAA tournament and a 78-30 record from 1972-78, but he didn't gain visibility until he sat behind a microphone.
Known for his bombastic style and catch phrases -- "That's awesome, baby!" -- Vitale has been a voice of college basketball for ESPN since the network went on air in 1979. He also became a pop-culture icon, appearing in commercials and drawing his own fans to arenas across the nation.
Even at age 69, one year removed from throat surgery that could have ended his career, Vitale is still a bundle of energy, hitting the motivational speech circuit, doing book signings, still shouting at all those college basketball games.
"It's unbelievable. It's a dream," Vitale said. "I'm in the last stage of my life. I'm in the last chapter. I want to make it my best."
Packer's approach was more low-key than Vitale's. He occasionally riled up players, coaches and fans with his brutally honest approach, but was always a steady presence courtside.
Packer served as an analyst for 28 seasons at CBS and called some of the greatest moments in college basketball history during 34 consecutive years at the Final Four.
"It's not only humbling to go into the hall of fame, but also as a person who really understands the history of college basketball on television, there are many guys who should be in way before somebody like myself," Packer said.
Richardson started his career under mentor Don Haskins at Texas Wesleyan and later coached at Tulsa. But it wasn't until he arrived in Fayetteville, Ark., that he made his mark.
The fiery coach used his "40 minutes of hell" defense to swarm opponents, leading Arkansas to the Final Four three times, including a national title in 1994. The first black coach in SEC history, Richardson is the only coach to have won junior college, NIT and national titles.
Arkansas' all-time winningest coach with 389 victories, Richardson was fired in 2002 and later lost a discrimination suit against the school. He never gave up his passion for teaching basketball, though, spending the past few years as a consultant.
"I always tell kids if you put the work in your life, it will work in your life," he said.
Famous for wearing a bow tie on the sideline while coaching 49 seasons at Mount St. Mary's, Phelan is the all-time leader in games coached with 1,354 and is fourth in wins with 830. A two-time national coach of the year, he led Mount St. Mary's to the Division II tournament 16 times, winning in 1962.
"Who would have thought I could have stuck around all those years?" Phelan said. "This is quite an honor."
Ferrin is the only four-time All-American in Utah history, leading the Utes to the NCAA title as a freshman in 1944 and an NIT championship in 1947. He later went on to win a title with the Minneapolis Lakers, joining Tom Gola as the only players to win NIT, NCAA and NBA championships.
"When they called and told us that this had happened, I looked at every Olympian who got his medal and I wanted to find something that I could repeat," he said. "What I got from most of them was that I can't express it in words -- and I truly, truly can't."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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