Who should (and shouldn’t) be in the Hall of Fame

While there can be no imaginable objections to the qualifications of the latest round on Hall of Fame inductees, there are several individuals who have already been enshrined who are not worthy of the honor.

These include:

  • Lou Carneseca: An unimaginative control freak at St. John’s University who stifled the talents of numerous players, Carneseca is in the Hall of Fame for all the wrong reasons. He was a great schmoozer who palled around with the media. He ostensibly ran a clean program — a false notion since many of his players had no-show jobs, and many more were given legal stipends to pay their off-campus housing when their apartments were provided gratis by SJU alums.

    Carneseca showed his true colors when he coached the New York Nets in the ABA (1970-73), where he was generally confused and had to be bailed out in key strategic situations by his veteran players. Overall, Carneseca’s record with the Nets was 114-134.

    Indeed, his only semi-righteous qualification is that he led St. John’s into the Final Four. Otherwise, Carneseca was a smiley-faced, gregarious mediocrity.

  • Hubie Brown: His lifetime record in the NBA of 424-495 is certainly not an appropriate recommendation. For sure, he could break the game down into its component parts as well as anybody, but Brown always found a way to eventually alienate his players. He’s in the Hall of Fame because of his longevity, because his TV duties keep him in the public eye and because he conducted truly great basketball clinics.
  • Les Harrison: He was the cheapskate owner of the old Rochester Royals who refused to supply sliced oranges to opponents at halftime. He’s honored only because of the old-boys’ network.
  • Dick Vitale: He’s little more than a professional loudmouth, who brags of his objectivity but always ignores the misdeeds of his buddies — the latest example being Rick Pitino.
  • Harry Gallatin: He couldn’t score (a career average of 13.0 points per game), pass (1.8 assists), or defend. In fact, his only above-average skill was rebounding. At a mere 6-foot-6, he led the NBA in this category with 15.4 in 1953-54. It should be noted, however, that because of the much lower shooting percentages back then, more rebounds were available. In sum, a good but not a great player.

  • Meadowlark Lemon: Since when is being a star in show business a legitimate qualification? Lemon was an inferior player but a scintillating showman, who is more deserving of an Oscar than a plaque in Springfield.
  • Abe Saperstein: He owned and operated the Harlem Globetrotters and ensured his own profits by routinely cheating his players. His favorite trick was to book the Globies into five-star hotels where the cost of meals and gratuities far exceeded the limits of the lowly salaries Saperstein paid his players. He would then advance them the necessary funds and therefore, in effect, create a company store and a perpetual state of indebtedness. But Saperstein did much to help the early NBA survive by scheduling Globetrotter games before regular-season NBA contests.
  • Ben Carnevale: He coached most notably at North Carolina (advancing to the Final Four in 1946) and at Navy and also headed several coaches’ organizations. His most significant move, though, was to use his contacts to get Frank McGuire a job at North Carolina so that McGuire could distance himself from the betting scandals at his previous job at St. John’s.
  • In addition, there are several college coaches whose main credentials consist of their winning a single NCAA championship — like Howard Hobson (Oregon, 1939), Doggie Julian (Holy Cross, 1947), Ken Loeffler (La Salle, 1954), Fred Taylor (Ohio State, 1960), Al McGuire (Marquette, 1977), John Thompson (Georgetown, 1984) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse, 2003).

    Notice how many of all of the above-mentioned men worked in the Northeast. That’s one reason why so many discriminating observers of the basketball scene feel that there’s an Eastern Mafia that exerts undue control over the Hall of Fame’s selections.

    Here’s a corresponding list of personages who should be in the Hall of Fame but are on the outside looking in:

  • Ed Jucker: He coached Cincinnati to NCAA titles in 1961 and 1962, both times upsetting highly favored Ohio State.

  • Mel Daniels and Artis Gilmore: Both were dominant players in the ABA and are shunned because they failed to dominate when they played in the NBA. Yet, if Forrest DeBernardi is in the Hall of Fame because he was a great AAU player in the 1920s, then there’s no reason why Daniels and Gilmore should be denied admittance.
  • Dennis Johnson: He led his teams to three NBA championships, was an extraordinary defender, a five-time All-Star and the Finals MVP with Seattle in 1979. Also, Larry Bird called DJ the “smartest player” he’d ever played with.
  • Dennis Rodman: He was a better rebounder and defender than Gallatin — he led the NBA in rebounds for seven consecutive years and was Defensive POY twice. He won five championships. But he’s considered too flaky to merit serious consideration.
  • Gus Johnson: If Dave DeBusschere is in the Hall of Fame (and rightly so), then Johnson should be too.
  • Sidney Moncrief: He was a superior two-way player whose credentials certainly don’t suffer in comparison to Joe Dumars’.

    If high-volume scorers who never won an NBA championship are in — the likes of Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin, Alex English and Walt Bellamy — then why haven’t the following players been inducted?

    World B. Free (career average of 20.3 ppg). Lou Hudson (20.2). Bernard King (22.5). Mitch Richmond (21.0).

    And if several one-time NCAA championship coaches are in, then what about NBA coaches who only won a single ring? Such as George Senesky, Al Attles, Dick Motta, Paul Westhead, Bill Fitch and Rudy Tomjanovich (who won twice). The truth, however, is that the Eastern Mafia has always favored the college game.

    Even so, the biggest omission continues to be Tex Winter. Everybody knows that he developed the triangle offense from the center-opposite offense that he learned under Sam Barry at USC. And it was the triangle (further refined by Phil Jackson) that was the design behind six Bulls’ and four Lakers’ championship teams.

    But the powers-that-be in Springfield give no credence to the contributions of NBA assistant coaches.

    Still, Winter was a very successful college coach. In 15 seasons at Kansas State, Winter was 262-121, the Wildcats were the top-ranked team in 1958, among the top 10 a total of four times, qualified for the NCAA tourney four times (back when the field was limited to 24 entries), were conference champs eight times and reached the Final Four in 1957 and 1964. In 1958, Winter was named the NCAA’s Coach of the Year. Moreover, until Winter lleft for Northwestern in 1973, he had the highest overall winning percentage of any of his peers.

    Several years back, Winter was presented with the John Bunn Award for lifetime achievement, which was a catch-all honor that failed to fully consider his specific and incredibly significant accomplishments in the NBA.

    Denying Winter full entrance in the Hall of Fame makes a mockery of the entire process.