Nov. 17, 2006
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -Dean Smith might be alone on this. The North Carolina coach can't understand why he's part of the select five to represent the inaugural class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.
"It's a big embarrassment to me," said Smith, whose 879 career victories lead Adolph Rupp and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight for the most in Division I history. "Something went wrong there."
"I don't know how that happened," he added, half-joking. "But it is certainly an honor."
Smith will join Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, John Wooden and the family of basketball founder Dr. James Naismith for induction ceremonies Sunday at the Crown Center Exhibit Hall.
"The five being recognized are truly exceptional, but they represent a group of very significant players and coaches who wrote much of the history we look back on and celebrate."
- Jim Haney, NABC Executive Director
The five were chosen by a panel to represent the founding class of about 180 players, coaches and contributors already part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Emmy Award-winning CBS analyst Billy Packer will serve as master of ceremonies. Presenters include Bill Walton, Larry Brown, John Thompson and Wayne Embry.
"So many had great college careers and don't seem to make it in the Springfield Hall of Fame," Smith said. "This way they can honor some guys who really deserve it."
The Collegiate Hall of Fame is not meant to compete with the Naismith Hall or with the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
Instead, it eventually will honor the likes of Danny Manning and Ralph Sampson, who had outstanding college careers but didn't fare nearly as well in the NBA.
"There's no question there's a need for depth," said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. "The five being recognized are truly exceptional, but they represent a group of very significant players and coaches who wrote much of the history we look back on and celebrate."
Wooden coached UCLA for 27 years, retiring in 1975 with a record of 620-147 and 10 national titles. His Bruin teams had four undefeated seasons, set a record by winning 88 straight games and won an unprecedented 38 straight NCAA tournament games.
Before Robertson and Russell became NBA stars, they won a combined five national player of the year titles at Cincinnati and San Francisco.
"Our committee identified these five. You could make it 12, or 30 or 50. Wherever you draw the line, you could say 'what a great group,"' Haney said. "But the five representing this founding class had significant impact on college basketball."
The induction comes the day before the final rounds of a tournament formerly known as the Guardians Classic - now the Collegiate Basketball Experience Classic - begins at Municipal Auditorium.
No. 11 Duke plays Air Force in the first semifinal before Knight's Red Raiders play No. 16 Marquette in the other. The championship and third-place games are Tuesday night.
"It's going to be an honor being there when the initial class goes into the Hall of Fame," said Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, a past president of the NABC.
Marquette coach Tom Crean called Sunday's ceremony a "historic time" for college hoops.
The Hall of Fame is part of what will be the College Basketball Experience, a 40,000-square-foot interactive attraction to be incorporated into the Sprint Center, Kansas City's new downtown arena set to open in 2007.
Once the College Basketball Experience is complete, exhibits honoring college basketball's greats will be on the first floor. On the second floor, visitors will find multimedia exhibits designed to recreate the atmosphere of the college game.
"What makes it special is because people get passionate, they get involved," Haney said. "This is really about all of us who love college basketball."