Walsh To Be Inducted Into South Carolina Hall
Though he was undefeated as the University of South Carolina basketball coach, Donnie Walsh is pretty sure that's not why he was elected to that state's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Walsh, the PS&E CEO and President who has been atop the Pacers' front office since 1986, will be inducted Monday night at the Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, S.C. Other inductees will be former major league pitchers Jimmy Key and LaMarr Hoyt; women's basketball star Katrina McClain; former South Carolina football coach Jim Carlen; former Gamecocks running back Harold Green; former Furman running back Stanford Jennings; and former Citadel linebacker and All-American Brian Ruff.
Walsh served 12 seasons as an assistant coach under the legendary Frank McGuire, rising to the position of associate head coach. Filling in during games McGuire missed, Walsh posted a 10-0 record, but he never had aspirations to become a head coach. His eye always was on management, and his time in South Carolina helped Walsh shape his philosophy toward team-building.
"It was immense because I had the opportunity to work with Frank McGuire, who was one of the most capable men I've ever met," Walsh said. "To put it simply, he always knew the right and wrong way of doing things and, obviously, if you look at his career, he usually did it the right way. I also worked with his coach, Buck Freeman, who was one of the great basketball minds of the times.
"From both of them I learned about building a team and also how to set an atmosphere around a team that would lead to success. Those things are still valid, 30 years later."
Walsh, who played for McGuire at North Carolina, was brought into the NBA by former Tar Heels roommate Larry Brown as an assistant in Denver in 1977. He came to the Pacers as George Irvine's assistant in 1984, rising to General Manager in 1986.
Assuming control of a team that had never won an NBA playoff game, Walsh built an organization that has reached the playoffs 17 times in his 20 years at the helm, including six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and one to the NBA Finals in 2000.
He traces that success back to the lessons learned under McGuire and Freeman.
"We had great players (including current Fever Coach Brian Winters), and it was the first time for that school to be on that level," Walsh said. "It was an exciting time. I absolutely loved my time there.
"This is a great honor. I'm not sure I really deserve it but I accept it in the names of (fellow South Carolina coaches) Buck Freeman, Bill Loving, Ben Jobe, Boby Cremins, Charlie Henderson and all of the players that were a part of that era."