I flew to Springfield, Massachusetts, twice in the summer of 2002 to visit the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The occasion: Lute Olson was part of the Class of 2002.
Olson was 68 and a year removed from his fifth Final Four season. He was established behind John Wooden as the No. 2 coach in Pac-12 history and as I examined all of the displays at the Hall of Fame, I thought: what took so long?
The answer was simple: No one in all of college basketball had nominated Olson until UA athletic director Jim Livengood did so a year earlier.
Those previously inducted from western basketball precincts included BYU’s Stan Watts, Washington’s Marv Harshman, Oregon State’s Ralph Miller and Slats Gill and Utah’s Jack Gardner. All were skilled and successful coaches, but they remained mostly regional names. Only Gardner had been to a Final Four.
In a sense, by 2002, Olson was over-qualified.
And that’s why I strongly think Steve Kerr has already done more than enough to secure his election into basketball’s most cherished Hall of Fame. If he retired today, he’s in.
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inducts coaches, players and contributors. Kerr’s résumé touches all variables: He was Arizona’s All-America point guard at the 1988 Final Four; he played important roles on five NBA championship teams; he has coached the Golden State Warriors to two NBA championships; he was college basketball’s lead analyst for the NCAA Tournament for seven years; he was general manager of the Phoenix Suns; he was a rotation player for America’s 1986 World Championship gold medal team.
The clincher (as if it’s needed): The style of play Kerr introduced at Golden State – run, gun, fun, fun, fun – has revolutionized pro basketball.
There’s no rush to put Kerr on the Hall of Fame ballot. He’s only 51. But as I run my thumb down the list of those enshrined — George Raveling, Dennis Rodman, Bob Hurley Sr., — I get the feeling that Kerr, like his mentor Olson, will be a first-ballot inductee someday soon.