In some highly disappointing news, Houston Rockets ex-All-Star player and two-time NBA championship-winning coach Rudy Tomjanovich was inexplicably left off of the group of finalists for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
In fact, Rudy T’s candidacy is actually going backwards, as he was a finalist the previous two seasons and didn’t even make the cut down this year.
Rudy T’s snub becomes perhaps even more baffling when you find out that former Rockets head coach Bill Fitch, who led Houston to the 1986 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics in a six-game defeat, did make the group of finalists. Fitch did win a ring in 1981 as coach of the Celtics.
It’s egregious still when you find out that former Phoenix Suns coach Paul Westphal, who made just one final in his NBA career as a coach and lost it in addition to losing to Rudy T’s Rockets in the Conference Semifinals in both the 1994 and 1995 Houston title years, was also named a finalist.
Though at least Westphal has a pretty substantial NBA career as a player to help him, winning a ring as a guard for the Celtics in 1974 and racking up five NBA All-Star selections and three first-team All-NBA selections.
Fitch, on the other hand, doesn’t even have a winning career record as a head coach (.460 winning percentage), though he did win two NBA Coach of the Year awards and had a pretty successful five-season run as coach of the Rockets from 1983-1988.
Still, Rudy T has the best winning percentage of the three (.559 to .532 to .460), the advantage in titles, and also has his career as player.
Tomjanovich, a 6’8” forward, averaged 17.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in a playing career that lasted from 1970-1981. He was named an All-Star five times, and his number 45 was retired by the Rockets. Combine that with his coaching career, which also includes a gold medal as head coach of the U.S Olympic basketball team in 2000 and a bronze medal in the 1998 FIBA World Championships (played without NBA players), and Rudy T should be a total no-brainer.
For his part, Tomjanovich was as graceful as ever, telling the Houston Chronicle about the snub:
“I have been given so much from basketball. Basketball has done so much for me as a person, as a young kid and then as a job, the excitement, the relationships and the travel. There’s no way I can be disappointed about anything. I think about how many people have won a championship in the city they played in. That was such a blessing. And then to represent the country in different years for different things.
“I have nothing but gratitude for what basketball has done for my life. There’s not a negative. This is something that hasn’t happened yet. I think it will happen. It might not, but that doesn’t change the wonderful things that happened in my life.”
This reminds me a little of the Ken Stabler situation in the NFL a few years back. People were actually shocked to find out that he hadn’t been in for a while already whenever his name would come up as a snub. Let’s hope the basketball world doesn’t do to Rudy T what the NFL did to Snake and wait until he passes before they get their head out of their ass.
You can’t tell the story of basketball at multiple levels without the name Rudy Tomjanovich, and you combine that fact with his numerous accolades as player, professional coach, and coach on the world stage, and it’s an absolute travesty those accomplishments have yet to be recognized by the hall, especially when lesser names are currently under higher consideration. Wake up, Hall of Fame. Rudy T belongs.
Here’s the official full list of this year’s finalists:
- Marques Johnson
- Bobby Jones
- Sidney Moncrief
- Jack Sickma
- Ben Wallace
- Chris Webber
- Paul Westphal
- Eddie Sutton
- Bill Fitch
- Hugh Evans
- Teresa Weatherspoon
- Leta Andrews
- Barbara Stevens