Miller, Pitino highlight Hall of Fame finalists

2/24/2012 12:06:07 PM

Miller, a five-time NBA All-Star, and Pitino, a five-time NCAA Final Four coach, join two-time NBA Coach of the Year Bill Fitch and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain as first-time finalists.

Other finalists from the player category were Maurice Cheeks, Ralph Sampson, Bernard King and Jamaal Wilkes. Coaches selected as finalists were Dick Motta and Don Nelson, while contributors chosen as finalists were referee Hank Nichols and the All American Red Heads, a women's team akin to the Harlem Globetrotters.

"The finalists for the Class of 2012 are a decorated group consisting of some of the greatest leaders that we have ever seen in the game of basketball," said Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Board of Governors. "They represent all facets of the game from professional, collegiate, amateur and international levels for the sport."

The 2012 Hall of Fame class will be announced Monday, April 2 at a news conference prior to the NCAA Tournament men's national championship game in New Orleans.

A finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies will take place Friday, September 7 in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Miller was one of the greatest clutch scorers in NBA history, playing his entire 17-season NBA career with the Indiana Pacers and finishing as the franchise's all-time leader with 25,279 points and 1,505 steals. The former UCLA star ranks second on the NBA all-time list for three-point field goals made with 2,560, and is ninth on the NBA career free-throw percentage list at .888. He also has the most three-pointers made (320) in playoff history.

Pitino is the only coach in men's college basketball history to lead three different schools to the NCAA Final Four, doing so with Providence, Kentucky and Louisville. He led Kentucky to the 1996 national championship and then reached the title game again with the Wildcats the following year. He has won over 600 games in his collegiate career and reached the Final Four five different times (1987, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2005) while leading his teams to 20 postseason appearances. He also held two stints as an NBA head coach with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, leading the Knicks to two playoff appearances.

Fitch won NBA top coach honors in 1976 and 1980, then led the Boston Celtics to the NBA title in 1981. After leading North Dakota University to a pair of NCAA Division II Final Fours, he spent 25 seasons as an NBA coach with five different teams from 1970-98. He recorded over 900 wins and ranks eighth in NBA history in victories while reaching five conference finals.

McClain is one of the most decorated athletes in USA Basketball national team history, winning Olympic gold medals in 1988 and 1996, as well as Olympic bronze in 1992. Before stepping onto the international stage, she was a two- time All-America (1986, 1987) and the 1987 WBCA National Player of the Year at the University of Georgia.

Cheeks finished his 15-year pro stint with 7,392 assists. He was a four-time All-Star who helped the 76ers to the 1983 NBA title, and has gone on to NBA coaching stints with Portland and Philadelphia. At his retirement, he was fifth on the NBA's career list in both assists and steals with 2,310.

Sampson was best-known for his collegiate career at the University of Virginia, where he was selected as a three-time national player of the year. He helped Virginia to one Final Four appearance, then gained fame in the NBA as one of the Rockets' Twin Towers -- along with Hakeem Olajuwon -- during the club's run of success in the mid 1980s. He was the NBA's top rookie in 1984.

King was a four-time NBA All-Star and a two-time NBA First-Team selection during a 15-year career that included stints with the New Jersey Nets, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and Washington Bullets. He averaged more than 22 points per game and was the NBA Comeback Player of the Year in 1981.

Wilkes was a member of four NBA championship teams, first in 1975 with Golden State and the Lakers in 1980, '82 and '85. After a stellar collegiate career at UCLA, where he was a member of two national championships, Wilkes won the 1975 NBA Rookie of the Year and finished his 12-year career with an average of 17.7 points per game.

Motta guided the Washington Bullets to the 1978 NBA championship in a coaching career that started at the junior college level in 1954. He has collected more than 1,000 wins at the JC, high school, collegiate and NBA levels.

Nelson, a Hall finalist for the fifth time, is the all-time winningest coach in NBA history with more than 1,300 victories and is one of only two coaches to be named NBA Coach of the Year three times. He spent over 40 years of his life as a player, coach and general manager, winning five titles as a player with the Boston Celtics.

Nichols was a long-time official who has refereed six national championship games and 10 Final Fours. After his officiating career, he became the national coordinator of officials for the NCAA and was instrumental in the progression of rules changes at the collegiate level.

The All American Red Heads were the first women's professional basketball team, which regularly played more than 200 games per season while touring thousands of miles reaching 49 states, Canada and the Philippines from 1936 to 1986.

Also announced Friday were five directly-elected members of the Class of 2012. They include Mel Daniels, voted in from the American Basketball Association (ABA) Committee, Don Barksdale from the Early African American Pioneers Committee, Lidia Alexeeva from the International Committee, Chet Walker from the Veterans Committee and Phil Knight from the Contributors Direct Election Committee.

This year marks the second year of the direct elect process.