John Calipari among HOF nominees

ByIan Begley ESPN logo
Saturday, February 14, 2015

NEW YORK --Kentuckycoach John Calipari and four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo are among a group of 12 finalists for the 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame Class.

The Hall of Fame announced its 2015 nominees Saturday at Madison Square Garden, the site of the NBA All-Star Game. The Class of 2015 will be announced April 6.

Calipari and Mutombo are joined by longtime NBA referee Dick Bavetta, five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, three-time All-Star Kevin Johnson, three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie,Wisconsincoach Bo Ryan, seven-time All-Star Jo Jo White, four-time All-Star Spencer Haywood, former NBA coach BillFitch and high school coaches Robert Hughes and Leta Andrews as finalists.

Calipari, who also had successful coaching stints at UMass and Memphis, guided Kentucky to the NCAA championship in 2012. His teams have reached the Final Four five times.

"I'm at a loss for words," Calipari said. "I want to thank the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame committee for even considering me. The process is by no means over -- I'm just a finalist at this point -- but to even be mentioned as a finalist among these worthy candidates is an unbelievable honor. I am absolutely humbled by this.

"I want to thank the people at UMass, Memphis and Kentucky for giving Ellen and I an opportunity to coach at three great institutions. I want to thank all the assistants and staff who have worked for us over the years, as well as the people in the community who have added value to our lives. Most importantly, I want to thank all of the players who have let us coach them and all of the parents who entrusted us with their son. Thank you."

Mutombo, an eight-time All-Star and native of Zaire, was overwhelmed to be among the group of finalists.

"Being from Africa, who would have ever though that my name would have been called to the Basketball Hall of Fame?" Mutombo said. "I never dreamed of playing basketball to reach this level."

Johnson, a 12-year NBA veteran and the current mayor of Sacramento, was also surprised to be among the group of finalists.

"You look up there at some of the players and you don't deserve to be in that category," Johnson said. "These are people who, I had their pictures on my walls growing up. Having a chance to stand with them is remarkable."

Ryan has been Wisconsin's coach since 2001 and guided the Badgers to a Final Four appearance last season.

"I'm extremely humbled and honored just to be mentioned with the other names on the nominee list," Ryan said. "The Hall of Fame holds so many revered legends of basketball and many of the individuals who originally sparked my love for the game.

"When I first planted my coaching roots years ago at the junior high level, I did so to be a teacher and help kids like my father did so selflessly. I never had intentions or even thought of being on Hall of Fame lists, but it's quite an honor and I'm grateful to all of the players and coaches who have helped along the way."

The Hall of Fame also announced Saturday that ABA star Louie Dampier, Australian national team coach Lindsay Gaze, formerBoston CelticscoachTom Heinsohn [already elected as a player], former New York Rens player John Isaacs and former college coach and current Nike executive George Raveling have already been elected for induction and will be part of an enshrinement ceremony in August.

In addition to the nominees, the Hall of Fame announced that NBA executive Rod Thorn will receive the John W. Bunn lifetime achievement award. Photographer Rich Clarkson and University of North Carolina broadcaster Woody Durham were named as recipients of the Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Award.'s Andy Katz contributed to this report.

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