Hall of Fame 2006 Testimonials
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2006 includes three NBA legends and three other basketball greats. NBA.com has put together interview excerpts from some of the people that were close to the new class.
Jerry Colangelo on Charles Barkley:I remember the first time I saw Charles Barkley on TV. I was reading the paper and watching Auburn play. I saw this rotund, 6-4 guy get a rebound off the defensive glass, put the ball down, dribble behind his back, pass behind his back, someone missed a layup and he went up and dunked it. It caught my attention to say the least.
I would say with all the great players that have come and gone, not many players can compare with Charles Barkley in terms of his size and what he was able to accomplish. He became a dominant inside power player at that size and had an incredible career in terms of individual statistics. He was really something. One of the most colorful players ever to play the game.
There's always a few sides to each of us and certainly Charles was no exception. He was very controversial at times with his off-the-court antics and certainly even some on the court during the course of his career. The side of him that a lot of people don't know a great deal about is that he did a lot of things for a lot of people without publicizing what he was doing.
I didn't necessarily agree with everything he said, but I respected the fact that if he had something on his mind, he certainly let people know how he felt. He didn't hold back any punches and that was just the way that he was and the way he is. And I don't think that will ever change. He's very much an extrovert, very much an outspoken personality, and certainly he's build a post-NBA career using the gifts given him in terms of conversation and being a little controversial.
The 1992-93 season was an extraordinary year. We were moving into a brand new building. We had a new coach in Paul Westphal. We had gone through a major transition in terms of a trade. We had won 54 or 55 games the year before but we decided to go for it and we traded three players for Charles Barkley. And he was received as a conquering hero coming into Phoenix. It probably elevated our exposure on a national and international basis tenfold. It was a storybook year. We had an incredible run, but we fell short in the Finals because there was a guy named Michael Jordan playing in Chicago and they beat us in Game 6. That was a disappointment, but I would say, for Charles Barkley, that was his best year ever.
As a member of the Hall of Fame myself, I can think back to 2004 when my induction took place. It was an incredible moment. You think back to your life, your career, the toil that you put into it and that moment is as big a moment as you could have in your life. And I know it means that to Charles Barkley. To be recognized as one of the all-time greats, deservedly so, is going to be a moment that he will never forget.
On a personal note, Charles did ask that I present him at the induction. The protocol that is that when you are inducted, you need to have a Hall of Fame member be that person. And I was a little surprised, but was very happy to accept the honor. I think it's a special moment to be asked to be that person. Obviously, he feels that there's a real connection and that I had some impact on his life. Therefore, it's a special moment for both of us.
Isiah Thomas on Joe Dumars:When you talk about Joe, you talk about grace and class, but I just think of his family ... his mom ... his dad. When I first met them (particularly his dad), I understood Joe. He was definitely raised the right way, brought up the right way and he always treated people very kindly. He always had a kind word, always had a kind disposition and was just very gentlemanly in the way he conducted himself, the way he treated people and the way he played the game.
Joe was the quiet assassin. He was the guy that would sneak into town, do his thing and be gone. As a player, he always had the tough assignments and he always guarded the toughest people. The thing that I always admired about him as a defender is that he never got rattled. We had some classic battles against Jordan, Magic and guys who were the best basketball players to ever play, and whenever they would make a great play against him, his demeanor was never rattled, which gave everybody on the team great confidence because he was just never shaken.
On Game 4 of the 1990 NBA Finals:
But watching him smile and play ... and there was one shot that he made in front of our bench... the shot clock was winding down ... he split two defenders and shot this real high-arcing shot ... I mean it went all the way to the moon. It came down and hit nothing but net. We both smiled at each other and my smile was different than his, because he was like, "Yeah that was sweet." But in my mind, I was saying "Your dad threw that one in," because it was a shot that he never would have made. And it came at a crucial time.
On Dumars' appproach as a defender:
On Dumars' enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame:
Joe, in the way he's lived, the way he is as a father, as a husband, as a man, as a teammate, as a brother, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Then when you talk about his basketball playing, that's another thing. That's something that's kind of taken for granted because he's a great player. But to me, the people in the Hall of Fame are Hall-of-Fame people, and he's a Hall-of-Fame person.
Mike D'Antoni on Sandro Gamba:Coach Gamba's contributions are enormous. First, as a player, he played with Olympia Milano, one of the great dynasties in early basketball history in Italy. Later, he was an innovative coach that brought a lot of ideas from America, one of the first ones to do so. On the national level, he coached the national team to a silver medal in Moscow and he was just a good club coach all the way through. Great player, great coach.
I think he wasn't afraid to take from other countries, especially the United States. He was one of the first to really embrace how America was playing and he brought that over in clinics and his coaching style. He just knew how to play the game of basketball, whether it was the American style or the Italian style, and he put it together. He had a good personality that made him one of the best coaches in Europe.
He was a fun guy to be around, which is the biggest thing for me. As a coach, he was easy to talk to. He had a good personality. He knew what he wanted, but he wasn't overbearing with it, so he made basketball fun and at the same time, a winning experience.
I never really coached against him, but I do know that he really wanted me to play for the Olympic team after the professionals came into being. I played on his 1988 European Championship national team. And for me, that was an unbelievable honor at the age of 38. He didn't get a whole lot out of me, because I was done, but it was a great honor and it was just good to hang around him.
His style was up and down, fast break and very open. He wasn't a micro-manager. He would just let the guys play. They had a nice little system, but you could improvise and he would just go with the flow.
Jim Boeheim on Dave Gavitt:The formation of the Big East Conference was one man. Dave Gavitt formed the conference and he did it really dragging people, kicking and screaming in. I don't think any of us really were that excited about it. We all had pretty good programs. We were winning. But Dave Gavitt pulled us together, and in spite of ourselves, he got us to help create the Big East Conference.
Without it, I doubt that any of us would be in the Hall of Fame. Myself or Jim Calhoun or John Thompson or anybody else. Dave saw the need for a conference in the East, where we went from having 30 or 40 really good teams to a league that focused in on eight to 10 teams. It really made a difference nationally. We were a lot of nice Eastern programs, but not national programs. And the Big East Conference made us into a national program.
He was there right at the time that the NCAA Tournament really kind of exploded. Dave is a guy that can get people to work together. Even people that don't like each other too much will work together if Dave is involved. He's a consummate deal maker. He's got an amazing ability to get people to work things out and as the chairman of the committee, he did a tremendous job. He was one of the really key guys in terms of pushing the NCAA Tournament to kind of where it is today.
You look at USA Basketball, a tremendous organization. Dave was instrumental in that with the Dream Team. You look at any phase of basketball, Dave Gavitt's got a hand print in there and usually a big one. It's just because he knows how to get people to work together and work toward something that's bigger than they are and ends up being great for everybody.
When he was at Providence with Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes, they were one of the great teams in the country. He was just a brilliant basketball coach in terms of offense, spacing and how you play the game offensively ... using your players, getting the most out of them. He just understands the game, how its played and how it should be played. He was a tremendous coach and that's probably something that's overlooked a bit.
What an unbelievable career that Dave Gavitt's had in the game of basketball and as he's done it, no one has ever said a bad word about him and he has nothing but friends in the game of basketball. That's unusual, because usually along the way, you're gonna knock heads with somebody. But Dave Gavitt has never had to knock heads with anybody. He's able to bring people's heads together and that's a rare quality, one that very few people have.
There were a lot of problems with the Basketball Hall of Fame when he took over and Dave's the kind of guy to fix that kind of thing. And he did. He brought people together and got the Basketball Hall of Fame where it is today, in a great position, a beautiful new building and a tremendous facility. I don't think the Basketball Hall of Fame has ever been stronger and Dave Gavitt had a big part of that.
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