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Scott Howard-Cooper

Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen are expected to be named to the 2010 Hall of Fame class.
Jed Jacobsohn /Allsport

Hall of Fame plans to open veil of secrecy, invite in fans

Posted Mar 29 2010 1:41AM

The basketball Hall of Fame is close to announcing a major change to the election process and is working on a revolutionary alteration as chairman Jerry Colangelo pushes forward with his pledge to increase transparency and fan interest.

For the first time, vote totals are expected to be released when the Class of 2010 is revealed next Monday in Indianapolis in conjunction with the Final Four. The class is expecetd to be headed by locks Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen.

Colangelo is hopeful the new plan, expected to be formalized within days, will lead to greater conversation about the merits of a candidacy, similar to the debate that often surrounds the baseball Hall of Fame. That, in turn, would lead to greater interest in the Springfield, Mass., museum of professional and amateur basketball. He also believes the changes will lead to an increased understanding of the nomination process, the subsequent campaign (which includes review by two separate boards) and the actual selection.

Fan involvement may begin as soon as next season with the groundbreaking move to include public balloting. That may spark an emotional connection that didn't exist before, but it will come at the risk of turning off insiders worried that the Hall of Fame will turn into a popularity contest.

Colangelo's solution: The fan balloting (Colangelo hopes it will top a million votes the first year) will count, but with less value than the returns from past inductees, people within the game and media members that have traditionally made the decision. Colangelo has yet to determine the level of the fan voice in the compromise, and other details must still be worked out before the board of directors signs off. But the plan is expected to be approved and could become part of the process as soon as the 2011 vote.

"It still has to be weighted very, very heavily to people within the industry," Colangelo said. "But I'm trying to push more focus, more participation with fans. That's a very good thing."

There are no plans, however, to break with tradition and identify voters selected by the Hall. One screening committee narrows the initial list of nominations into a set of finalists and another later votes on enshrinement.

There are no plans in coming years to reveal the inductees anywhere other than the Final Four, either, even though the setting raises some marketing problems. The biggest announcement of the year for the Hall ends up being a major topic for just a few hours, until the NCAA championship game is played later that night. But Colangelo likes that the setting raises the profile of the unveiling, likes that it gets a lot of media coverage (even if not as long as he'd prefer) and likes that the college setting is a strong reminder that the Hall is for amateur basketball as well.

The lesser change that will take place, in addition to releasing vote totals and eventually including fan balloting, involves the calendar. The enshrinement ceremonies are being moved up about a month to August to avoid a schedule conflict with the world championships in Turkey. The earlier date for the Hall will also allow Team USA -- and Colangelo, its managing director -- to hold a mini-camp in New York that will include an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden and also travel to Springfield for the inductions in a well-timed marketing moment. The 1992 and 1960 U.S. Olympic teams are both finalists.

If August gets a good response, the Hall may choose to keep the enshrinement there in the future, hoping the change will allow more people to attend as part of summer vacations while also increasing coverage by getting out of the way of the start of football season.

The finalists with NBA ties this year, in addition to Malone, Pippen and the two Olympic squads, are Lakers owner Jerry Buss, Dennis Johnson, Bernard King, Chris Mullin, Don Nelson, Jamaal Wilkes, Tex Winter, Richie Guerin and Gus Johnson.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.

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