Basketball Hall of Fame Inducts 5 : Cunningham, Holzman, Heinsohn Lead the ‘Team’

Associated Press

Coaching was harder, agreed Billy Cunningham, Red Holzman, and Tom Heinsohn, all star players who later became successful coaches, on their induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Also installed Tuesday were former Ohio State Coach Fred Taylor, whose 1960 squad, led by Hall of Famers Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, won the NCAA championship; Stan Watts, who won two NIT titles and eight conference crowns during his 23 years of coaching at Brigham Young, and college referee Zigmund (Red) Mihalik.

“It’s tough for someone who has been a good player to become a good coach, because it’s always been so easy for them to do what’s needed on the floor,” Holzman said.


Holzman, an All-American at City College of New York who played on a pair of championship Rochester Royals teams during the 1940s, capped an 18-year NBA coaching career by leading the New York Knicks to titles in 1970 and 1973.

“That first championship was my biggest thrill,” Holzman said. “That team may have been the best to play the game. What they may have lacked as individuals they made up in intelligent team play.”

Four players from his championship teams--Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley and Jerry Lucas--are in the Hall of Fame “and I’m sure Walt Frazier’s time will come, along with Dick Barnett and Earl Monroe,” Holzman said.

Cunningham teamed with Wilt Chamberlain to lead Philadelphia to the NBA championship in 1967. But the title he said he enjoyed most was coaching the 76ers to the 1983 NBA championship.

“The first, as a player, seemed to come a little too easy,” Cunningham said. “I was a good player, but I was just not in the same category as (Hall of Famers) Elgin Baylor or Bill Russell.”

After an 11-year playing career, Cunningham had a 69% regular-season winning mark during in his eight years of coaching.

“I never even thought I’d make it as a pro player,” said Heinsohn, the 14th member of the Boston Celtics to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. “Red (Coach Auerbach) thought I was a lazy basketball player in college.”

Heinsohn played on eight championship teams during his nine years with the Celtics and added two more titles as the Celtics coach, also said his first NBA title as a coach, stood out.

“When you win as a coach, it’s a recognition that you were able to do a lot of things, not just shoot the basketball,” Heinsohn said.

Taylor, whose players also included Indiana Coach Bob Knight, a sub on the 1960 squad, and Tennessee Coach Don DeVoe, said: “I always thought coaching was more fun than anything I know, and maybe that carried over to my players.”

Mihalik, the 11th referee in the Hall of Fame, may be the only man ever to have called a technical foul on a fellow inductee.

“And Billy Cunningham deserved it,” declared Mihalik of the 1960 confrontation at Chapel Hill, N.C., after Cunningham, then a star at the University of North Carolina, slammed the ball to the court to express his displeasure with the officiating.

“After I assessed the ‘T,’ I heard this quiet voice behind me saying, ‘Let me handle this,’ ” Mihalik recalled. “It was (North Carolina Coach) Dean Smith, and he sat Cunningham down and I never saw Billy for the rest of the game.”

Mihalik began his officiating career as a fill-in while a varsity bench-sitter on the Ford, Pa., high school team in 1934.

Mihalik said he would get to the games early, hoping that the coach would put him in, but he found his niche one night when the referee for the junior-varsity game failed to show up. His high school coach handed him the whistle. “I loved it and kept at it for the next 50 years,” Mihalik said.

Mihalik worked six NCAA finals and two Olympics, but for years he refused to cooperate in efforts launched by Smith and the late Adolph Rupp of Kentucky to get him in the Hall of Fame.

“It would have been like bragging,” he said.