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Scott Howard-Cooper

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Tom "Satch" Sanders will finally get his Hall of Fame due after a lengthy wait.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Sanders takes long road to reach his Hall of Fame moment


Posted Jul 7 2011 11:09AM

The drive, for nearly nine years now, has become so familiar. Old Route 15 to Interstate 84 to the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Satch Sanders can practically do it on muscle memory. Thirty-eight miles door-to-door. From his home in Sturbridge across southern Massachusetts to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.

"Easy run," he said. "Very easy run."

Definitely. And absolutely not.

Sanders makes the commute about 10 times a year, as a former member of the Hall board of trustees or to see friends at the museum, plus another five or six occasions to spend time with acquaintances around the city.

But his enshrinement Aug. 12 as part of the Class of 2011 headlined by Chris Mullin, Dennis Rodman and Artis Gilmore comes decades after his playing career ended in 1973. It's even six years after he ended a 19-year run with the league office, mostly as an executive with player programs, the last of several collective accomplishments on the court and behind the scenes that led to the election in the Contributor category by the Veterans committee.

And then there's the Celtic side of things, too. Tom (Satch) Sanders was a key part of eight championships during Boston's dynasty of the 1960s, important enough that his No. 16 hangs from the rafters. He was also an impact defender at forward in a way that can't be measured in 9.6 ppg and 6.3 rpg over 13 seasons.

"He should have made it, no question about it," Sanders contemporary Cal Ramsey, a friend since they attended junior high school together in Harlem, told the New York Daily News. "He is the best defender I ever played against. Ask Elgin Baylor and Bob Pettit and all those great players from that era. If you saw him play defense, you'd know that stats don't apply in this case. The toughest days I had on the court were when I'd have to go up against Satch. To this day, he's the best defender I've ever seen at the forward position."

Sanders just didn't get the chance until now to relocate to Springfield with much of the rest of the Celtic locker room. When Sanders is enshrined in about a month, he will once again be alongside Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn (Sanders' presenter at the ceremonies), K.C. Jones and patriarch Red Auerbach. If it's Celtic country on the map, the '60s Celtics are moving a step closer to making the Hall their own, too.

"It will be a matter of re-joining," Sanders said.

That's another reason this all feels so familiar. The teammates. The location -- he will probably stay in Springfield for the ceremonies only because it will allow for endless visiting without having to worry about a late-night drive back to Sturbridge.

"Let's put it this way," Sanders said. "This really brings an air of familiarity to it. I've been there (to the Hall) for so many years, to see others inducted and be part of the Hall of Fame itself on different levels. This will have some familiarity to it. But to be the person going in, that certainly will be a different feeling."\

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

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