Pitino Joins King, Payton in Basketball Hall of Fame Class

Bernard King, Gary Payton and Rick Pitino were among the class of 2013 announced today for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Also honored were Sylvia Hatchell, Dawn Staley, Guy Lewis and Jerry Tarkanian. The class was unveiled before the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s tournament final in Atlanta, where Pitino will coach the University of Louisville against the University of Michigan.

“It’s a pretty special distraction,” Pitino said at the televised ceremony. “I’m just so proud to be here.”

Inductees into the Springfield, Massachusetts, museum had to receive at least 18 votes from a 24-member committee. The enshrinement ceremony will take place later this year.

Pitino, 60, has won over 600 collegiate games, led his teams to 22 postseason appearances and reached the NCAA tournament’s Final Four seven times with a record three different schools. With a win tonight, he would become the first coach to win NCAA titles with two men’s programs, after taking Kentucky to the championship in 1996.

Pitino was also 192-220 in six years as National Basketball Association coach with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. He had just one winning season, with the Knicks in 1988-89, and made the playoffs twice.

King, 56, averaged 22.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in a 15-year career with five teams, including the Knicks and New Jersey Nets. A four-time All-Star, King led the NBA in scoring in 1984-85 as a member of the Knicks.

Defensive Standout

Payton, 44, played 17 NBA seasons, primarily with the Seattle SuperSonics, averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 assists per game. A nine-time All-Star and nine-time All-Defensive First Team selection, Payton won an NBA championship with the Miami Heat in 2006 and gold medals with the U.S. team at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

The inductees were among 12 finalists announced in February. Those who missed election include players Maurice Cheeks and Tim Hardaway, and coach Tom Heinsohn. Heinsohn is already enshrined as a player.

Five others were previously chosen for 2013 entry through special panels: Roger Brown, who was voted in by the American Basketball Association Committee; Edwin B. Henderson, from the Early African-American Pioneers Committee; Oscar Schmidt, from the International Committee; Richie Guerin, from the Veterans Committee; and Russ Granik, a former NBA deputy commissioner, from the Contributor Direct Election Committee.

The Hall of Fame was established in 1959 and has 313 inductees, including former players, coaches, referees, teams and other contributors to the game, according to its website. Players become eligible five years after retirement; coaches and referees must be retired for five years or have worked fulltime for at least 25 years.

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