Richie Guerin had been called by the Basketball Hall of Fame regularly when he had come up short for induction. But what happened Friday when he finally made it?
Guerin had received no immediate message from the Hall.
Guerin, who is retired and lives in West Palm Beach, was shopping with his wife, Pat, at Costco on Friday morning when he received a call from FOX Sports Florida. He had no idea he had been inducted until he was told.
“I didn’t know,’’ said Guerin, 80. “Is that right? Well, I really do appreciate you telling me. That’s a total surprise. I did not hear that.’’
The 6-foot-4 Guerin was a guard for the New York Knicks and St. Louis and Atlanta Hawks from 1956-70. He averaged 17.3 points, including 29.5 for the Knicks in 1961-62.
Guerin, who previously had failed to be elected to the Springfield, Mass., shrine, through the regular process, was selected by the Veterans Committee at a press conference in Houston, site of NBA All-Star Weekend.
“It’s a blessing,’’ Guerin said. “I had been disappointed before, but there’s nothing you can do about it. People would approach me through the years and say, ‘You really should be in the Hall of Fame.’ And that would make it hurt a little more.
“It had been frustrating before. I always heard there were times were I didn’t make it by a vote or two.’’
Guerin expects to name Hall of Fame guard Bob Cousy, a former Boston Celtics star, to be his presenter at the Sept. 8 ceremonies in Springfield.
“I play golf with Bob down here in Florida,’’ said Guerin, a native of New York. “He and I and John Havlicek (another Celtics Hall of Famer) are members of the same club, Bear Lakes in West Palm Beach. Bob has been very helpful in recommending me in the past (for the Hall of Fame).’’
Guerin, who played in six All-Star Games, was regarded as gritty all-around player. He also coached the Hawks from 1964-72, serving as player-coach for the first six seasons. He compiled a 327-291 record and made the playoffs each of his eight years on the bench.
“I think my record speaks for itself,’’ Guerin said of his career as a player. “I held a lot of Knicks records for many years until Bernard King and Patrick Ewing came along.’’
Guerin’s 29.5 average was the best in Knicks history until King put up 32.9 in 1984-85. Guerin held the Knicks record of 29 straight 20-point games until Carmelo Anthony broke it two weeks ago before his streak stopped at 31.
Four others were selected Friday for induction into the Hall. Getting the call were former ABA star Roger Brown by the ABA Committee, Edwin B. Henderson from the Early African-American Pioneers Committee, former Brazilian star Oscar Schmidt from the International Committee and former NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik from the Contributor Direct Election Committee.
The NBA also named 12 finalists for induction, including former Miami Heat point guards Tim Hardaway and Gary Payton and former NBA guard Mitch Richmond, a native of Fort Lauderdale. They will learn their Hall of Fame fate April 8 in Atlanta, site of the NCAA title game.
Other finalists named Friday were women’s college coach Sylvia Hatchell, former NBA coach Tom Heinsohn, who already is in the Hall as a player, former women’s star Dawn Staley, college coaches Rick Pitino, Jerry Tarkanian and Guy Lewis, and former NBA players Maurice Cheeks, Spencer Haywood and King.
Friday’s press conference was televised live on NBA TV. But Guerin didn’t know about it or even that he was under consideration for immediate induction.
“It’s a total shock,’’ said of about hearing the news. “I’m just out here shopping with my wife at Costco and then we’re going to Dick’s Sporting Goods to look at some golf equipment.’’
Guerin wasn’t quite sure how he would spent his first night as a Basketball Hall of Famer. He figured he would celebrate with a quiet dinner with his wife.