Jerry Colangelo Pledges that Hall of Fame Will Recognize Worthy Players Who Have "Slipped Through the Cracks"This morning the Hall of Fame announced the names of this year's 19 finalists but the highlight of the press conference was a statement that may have farther reaching implications than the selection and induction of any one particular Hall of Fame class: Jerry Colangelo, the Chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board, acknowledged that some players and teams have "slipped through the cracks" and have not been accorded proper recognition by the Hall of Fame. Colangelo pledged to do everything in his power to correct these injustices, starting with the recent restructuring of the Hall's governing structure. Colangelo said that, contrary to popular belief, there is "no limit to the number of people who can be inducted" in a given year and that if the 24 member Honors Committee decides that all 19 candidates are worthy then all 19 should receive the 18 votes that are required for induction.
Colangelo also promised to make the voting procedure more transparent. When several media members interviewed Colangelo after the press conference, he indicated that he would even be receptive to enabling fans to have some input in the process, perhaps by polling them and then assigning the fans a weighted vote in the final balloting.
I have often written about The ABA's Unsung Heroes, insisting that Roger Brown, Artis Gilmore and Mel Daniels are great players whose ABA numbers should be made "official" and who should have long ago been recognized by the Hall of Fame. Two years ago--before Colangelo was the Basketball Hall of Fame Chairman--I asked him about the great ABA players and coaches who have not been inducted by the Hall and he said, "I am hopeful that over a period of time these people will be recognized for their contributions."
Now that Colangelo is actually in a position where he can take steps to make that happen, I asked him, "You talked about some players who 'slipped through the cracks,' as you put it. Would you include Artis Gilmore and some other ABA players in that group and is there any consideration for having a special committee--like you have a veteran's committee and so forth--devoted to the ABA to focus attention on those players specifically?" Colangelo replied, "I'm not sure about an ABA committee but I will tell you that there are definitely a number of those players who slipped through the cracks. That is a good example of the kind of people that need to have reconsideration. Some of them have been nominated in the past but after being nominated so many consecutive times you kind of slip away and now it's time--if I'm fortunate enough to make the change that I want to make--(for them) to get another shot at it."
I then asked Colangelo, "Can you talk specifically about what that change will be? If there is not going to be a new committee then how will those players be brought back into the fold?"
Colangelo said, "It will be done through the (existing) committees but I'm not sure that there will be an ABA committee to address that issue."
It has been suggested that one way to clean up the Basketball Hall of Fame voting process would be to publicize the names of the members of the Honors Committee but Colangelo shot down that idea as soon as I mentioned it: "I don't think that's really--in order to have a process that's clean, you can't have people knowing who's on the committee, in my opinion, because you don't want people soliciting votes. I think that's unhealthy--that really is. I'll know who is on the committee and it will be in my judgment how we get the kind of transparency that I think we need."
Roland Lazenby mentioned to Colangelo that former Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause fervently believes that the rigidity of the Hall of Fame's category definitions of coach, player and contributor may be part of the reason why someone like Winter--who has spent most of his career as an assistant coach but designed the offensive system used by 10 NBA champions since 1991--has yet to be inducted. Colangelo agreed: "He makes a good point. We may really have to look at the number of committees we have and where they come from. For example, if this (press conference facility) were the Hall of Fame here there should be--in terms of the history of the game--a room just on the history of the ABA (Colangelo nodded in my direction as he said this) and all of its contributions. There should be a room on international basketball and the contributors from the international game, etc. So, we are kind of reevaluating and that's what I'm trying to do--I want people to start thinking broadly about things to improve the Hall of Fame. Same old, same old is not good enough for me."
Colangelo later added that although there are physical limitations in terms of how many actual rooms that the Hall can build, technological advances make it possible to create new exhibits in other ways. I asked him if this meant that perhaps the ABA-themed room could be "an online component" of the Hall and Colangelo said, "Oh, yeah. Sure. There is so much to do and it will be fun trying to go at it."
posted by David Friedman @ 5:20 PM