Former Celtic ‘Satch’ Sanders immortalized
Date: 8/16/2011Aug. 15, 2011
By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
SPRINGFIELD Dennis Rodman highlighted the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 that was inducted Aug. 12.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Even more interesting, though, is at this time in my life, I know a lot of these people. It makes me a little nervous.”
Tom “Satch” Sanders pointing to the photos of the Hall of Famers above him.
Rodman, who was known as much for his ever-changing hair color and off the court flamboyancy, as his tenacious rebounding and defense, was humbled by the honor, calling it one he never expected.
“I never imagined that I’d have been here,” he said. “If you had told me 15 years ago that I would be in the Hall of Fame, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Rodman, who was known as “The Worm,” is widely regarded as one of the greatest rebounders in National Basketball Association (NBA) history not named Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain. He ranks 22nd on the NBA’s all-time rebounds list and led the league in that category four times in his 14-year career. A fierce defender, the two-time All-Star was named to seven All-Defensive first teams and was twice voted the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
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He won five NBA titles with two different teams. He won two with the Detroit Pistons, including the 1991-1992 season in which he pulled down 1,530 rebounds, That total had not been reached since Chamberlain grabbed 1,572 boards in the 1971-1972 season and has not been touched since. He also joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as they won three consecutive NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls. That time with the Bulls, he said, was especially meaningful for him.
“Michael [Jordan], Scottie [Pippen], Phil Jackson, those guys understood me and allowed me to be myself,” he said. “Chicago was where I could be the person I wanted to be.”
Rodman said he embraced his ability to play a role as a defensive stopper on the basketball court and that because of that, thoughts of the Hall of Fame never entered his mind.
“I didn’t play the game to get into the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I played to win games and to win championships.”
Acknowledging that he was one who stole the spotlight off the court, Rodman said he prided himself on maintaining balance.
“It’s hard to be an entertainer and an athlete and stay grounded as a basketball player,” he said. “I always put the game of basketball first and I think that’s why I’m here.”
Chris Mullin, who was inducted last year as a member of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, entered the Hall of Fame as an individual this year. He has two gold medals to his credit.
Mullin was a five-time NBA all-star whose 17,911 points over 16 seasons ranks in the top-100 in NBA history. He also recorded 4,034 career rebounds and 3,450 assists. Like Rodman, he said a Hall of Fame induction was never a prominent thought in his mind.
In college, we was named Big East Player of the Year three times for St. John’s.
“It’s not something that I was consumed with,” he recalled. “When your career is over, you can’t change anything and I really feel by playing I already received so much.”
Former Boston Celtic Tom “Satch” Sanders, was voted in by the Veteran’s committee.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to be. Even more interesting, though, is at this time in my life, I know a lot of these people. It makes me a little nervous,” he joked while gesturing toward the pictures of past inductees that line the top level of the museum.
Sanders was inducted not as a player, but for his involvement with the NBA in his post-playing days. He was one of the developers of the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program and other player programs, addressing a need that he recognized even as a rookie.
“When I first started playing as a rookie, I was talking with K.C. Jones and he was very concerned about the afterlife when he was finished playing,” he said. “That right there planted a seed for me and I realized that the transition can be a real problem for athletes.”
In addition to his work with young professional athletes, Sanders had a notable basketball career as a member of the Celtics teams of the 60s that won eight NBA titles.
Primarily a defensive weapon for the team, Sanders insists to this day that his offensive abilities were never fully realized.
“I tried to tell [Coach Red] Auerbach that I had a strong offensive game, but he didn’t buy it,” he said with a smile. “There were still chances to score. I had speed and we concentrated a lot on the fast break, so if I was the first one down there, [Bob] Cousy would get it to me.
“I had to make sure to get down there before [Tom] Heinsohn because if he got the ball, you knew it was over and you weren’t going to see it again,” he added jokingly.
Among the other inductees was Artis Gilmore, the great American Basketball Association standout who later joined the NBA where he was named to the NBA All-Star team. Between the two leagues, Gilmore scored more than 24,000 points.
“It’s truly a pleasure and I’m blessed to be here to share this honor,” he said. “To have my family here to enjoy this with me, I can’t think of anything better.”
Herb Magee, the winningest coach in National Collegiate Basketball Association history with more than 900 victories at Division II Philadelphia University, was one of three coaches inducted as part of this year’s class.
“Some people would say, ‘Why can’t this guy get another job?’” he said. “I would say that I have the best job.”
Tex Winter, who is best known as the coach for creating the triangle-post offense, and Tara VanDerveer, who is one of only five Division I head coaches to surpass 800 wins, were also inducted as coaches.
Arvydas Sabonis was inducted through the International Committee’s vote after a career in which he was considered one of the best European centers. At 7-foot-3, he was known not only for his size, but his ability to distribute the ball and won a gold and bronze medal in the Olympics for the Soviet Union and Lithuania.
Teresa Edwards was the second woman inducted in the 2011 class after a career that saw her win five Olympic medals four gold and one bronze. She was a two-time college All-American and led Georgia to two Final Four appearances.
Former Harlem Globetrotter Reece “Goose” Tatum, who passed away in 1967, was honored posthumously by the Early African American Pioneers of the Game committee.