SVG makes compelling case for Hardaway’s Hall candidacy – and rooting for Big Ben, too

Pistons assistant coach Tim Hardaway should be a slam-dunk Hall of Fame inductee, Stan Van Gundy says.
Brian Drake/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The NBA Hall of Fame works in mysterious ways, its ballots cast in secrecy and the identity of its voters closely held.

So Stan Van Gundy used his big stage as an NBA head coach to carry his pitch for Tim Hardaway’s Hall of Fame candidacy to a broad audience in hopes that those closeted voters will be among them.

“We’ve got to get him in there this time,” Van Gundy said of Hardaway, whom he tapped to be on his coaching staff when he came to the Pistons in 2014. “All I know is this. He played on two really good teams. In Golden State, early on, two guys he played with are in the Hall of Fame and deservedly so, Chris Mullin and Mitch Richmond. Tim was the best player on that team. And then in Miami, he played on really good teams. Alonzo’s (Mourning) in the Hall of Fame on that team, deservedly so – Tim was the best player on that team. I was there.”

Van Gundy was an assistant coach with the Heat, for whom Hardaway played for 5½ seasons after spending the first 6½ years of a 14-year NBA career with Golden State. Hardaway made the All-Rookie first team with the Warriors in 1990 and became part of the famed Run TMC trio with Mullin and Richmond under Don Nelson. He played in five All-Star games and made the All-NBA first team once, the second team twice and the third team twice.

That’s a pretty good resume. There are players in the Hall of Fame with less on theirs.

“I think one of the criterion in any of the Halls of Fame is when you’re playing, you have to be at the top,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not just how long are you good, but are you really at the top? And I know when we had him in Miami, the guy was first team All-NBA on a team winning 60 games. Alonzo was a big part of it, too, but Tim was the guy everybody prepared for offensively. He was the guy. So there’s no question to me on what he did on those two teams that he should be in the Hall of Fame – and deserves to get in and not come up short again.”

Hardaway has been eligible for nearly a decade since his retirement in 2003. He averaged 17.7 points and 8.2 assists over his career, but more than 20 points and nine assists in four of his seasons with Golden State. On Riley’s Heat teams – more like mud wrestling to Nelson’s speedskating – Hardaway still put up big numbers in games with far fewer possessions, averaging 18.8 points and 8.6 assists over his first four seasons with the Heat.

“So you’re the best player on two good teams that has Hall of Famers. How can you not be in the Hall of Fame?” Van Gundy said. “It’s mind-boggling to me. So hopefully this year’s his year because he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

There’s another notable name on the list of candidates announced this week: Ben Wallace. It can’t hurt Wallace’s case as a four-time Defensive Player of the Year and dominant rebounder that another former Piston, Dennis Rodman, cracked the glass with his 2011 induction.

“It’s harder for me to sit down and evaluate all the other guys,” Van Gundy said. “If you’re nominated, you’re a great player. Being a Piston now, you want to see Ben get in. There’s no question about that. But as far as should they, I’d have to sit and analyze it. I don’t need to sit and analyze it with Tim. I watched it.”