ATLANTA — Hours before his team was to play Michigan in the NCAA men’s national championship game Monday night, Louisville coach Rick Pitino was officially named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2013. And he wasn’t alone.
Among those joining Pitino in Springfield, Mass., will be former NBA stars Gary Payton and Bernard King; former University of Houston coach Guy Lewis, who made five Final Four appearances; and former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian.
“I just think of so many people, it’s been a real exciting time for me,” said Tarkanian, who was introduced in the 12-person class at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.
Tarkanian brought UNLV to the Final Four four times, winning it all in 1990. But he was also a controversial figure in college basketball for alleged NCAA violations, and that is a big reason he was forced to wait 11 years after coaching his last game to get into the Hall.
“If he is in, I’m more excited than if I was to get in,” Pitino said of Tarkanian Sunday.
King played 14 seasons in the NBA, though his career was interrupted by injuries. He averaged 22.5 points and was a four-time All-Star.
“It’s a culmination of my life in basketball,” King said. “Certainly this was not on my radar in terms of something that I was anticipating so it came as an absolute surprise to me. “I’m just deeply honored.”
Payton, nicknamed “The Glove,” spent 17 seasons in the NBA (the 2004-05 campaign with the Celtics) and was named to both the All-Star team and the All-Defensive first team nine times.
“When I started playing basketball, I just wanted to be a guy who was in the NBA doing something,” Payton said. “As my career went on and on and I started to get better, never still thought about being in the Hall of Fame. I’m still not thinking about it. I don’t even think I’m here now.”
For Pitino, his induction call came at the same moment he received a text message that read, “Go Gophers.” His son, Richard, had gotten the head coaching job at Minnesota.
Pitino took time out of his game preparation to attend the Hall news conference. “It’s a pretty special distraction,” he said.
With an 82-76 win Monday, Pitino became the first coach to win a national title at two schools. The rest of the Hall class includes North Carolina women’s coach Sylvia Hatchell, former WNBA player Dawn Staley, ex-NBA player Richie Guerin, ABA player Roger Brown, Brazilian player Oscar Schmidt, former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik, and pioneer Dr. E.B. Henderson. The induction ceremony will take place in September.
Burke wins Cousy
Michigan point guard Trey Burke was named the winner of the Bob Cousy Award as the top point guard in college basketball. Burke has won three player of the year awards . . . Members of Michigan’s “Fab Five” were in attendance Monday, including Chris Webber. “It meant a lot,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “It feels great when you have alumni come back that played in this program before, really show you some love.” At one point Monday night, Michigan had five true freshmen in the game . . . Louisville improved to 3-0 in championship games. The Cardinals beat UCLA in the 1980 title game (59-54) and Duke in 1986 (72-69) . . . Louisville became the 16th team to win the title after trailing at halftime . . . All three of the Cardinals’ titles came with a halftime deficit . . . Louisville won for the seventh time this season after trailing by at least 10 points . . . Michigan fell to 1-5 in national championship games.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.