SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — This weekend Springfield lives up to its name as, “The Birthplace of Basketball,” as they play host to the 2013 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremonies.
This year’s class inducted 12 new members as they received their jackets today at the Hall of Fame. Leading the way was 9-time All-Star point guard Gary Payton.
Nicknamed “The Glove” for his stingy defense, Payton remains the only point guard to ever earn the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Spending the majority of his 17-year NBA career with the Seattle Supersonics, Payton reflected on the importance of this weekend to the city of Seattle.
“It’s very important,” said Payton. “Even though we don’t have a team, this is their moment right here. They know that I’m going in as a Seattle SuperSonic and it is great for the city as well as me and my family.”
While Gary Payton was certainly the most well-known player to enter the Hall of Fame this year, the coaching class was headlined by Rick Pitino.
Pitino has many ties to New England, coaching at Boston University, Providence College and a stint in the NBA with the Boston Celtics. However, it all began in Pitino’s playing days at UMass.
Playing for the Minutemen from 1970-1974, Pitino credits much of his coaching style and his first job opportunity to former UMass head coach Jack Leamen.
“Jack was a tough hard-nosed coach,” said Pitino. “It’s interesting because I wouldn’t be here today. If he didn’t make a phone call at age 24, I wouldn’t have gotten the job at Boston University.”
After Boston University coach Pitino went on to a very successful coaching career, taking three different schools to the NCAA Final Four. Pitino also got the call from the Hall of Fame the same weekend as his Lousiville Cardinals won the national championship.
“For all this to happen in such a short period of time is great. We’ve had back-to-back Final Fours. If we win one more, the way my friends in Louisville celebrate, I will be dead.”
Festivities continue tomorrow as the Enshrinement Ceremonies take place at Springfield’s Symphony Hall.