Culture / Sporting Life

At Last — Rudy Tomjanovich Makes the Basketball Hall of Fame, Righting a Sports Wrong

Greatest Houston Rockets Coach Ever Earned This Election With the Heart (and Humbleness) of a Champion

BY // 04.03.20

Good news can seem like it’s in very short supply these days, but one happy jolt is at least breaking the Houston sports gloom. Rudy Tomjanovich is finally getting his rightful spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Rudy T is going into the Hall. At last.

Righting this sports wrong honors the best coach the Houston Rockets have ever had — and gives further validation to those back-to-back H-Town NBA champions who are too often glossed over in league history. Fox 26’s Mark Berman, the most dogged reporter in Houston, first broke the news of Tomjanovich’s impending induction.

This year’s Basketball Hall of Fame Class will be officially announced on Saturday.

The 71-year-old Tomjanovich, who’s overcome bladder cancer and numerous other challenges in his life that would have leveled a man with less heart, has been unfailingly gracious in dealing with past Hall snubs. He never took a woe-is-me attitude and instead insisted on talking about all the positives in his life.

“I’m one of the fortunate people who can say my life turned out better than my dreams,” Tomjanovich said at the Houston Sports Awards this winter.

Getting rightfully enshrined in Springfield will make that living dream even better. This is no doubt an emotional moment for Tomjanovich, his family and everyone who campaigned for him to finally get his well-deserved Hall call.

The enshrinement ceremony weekend in Springfield, Massachusetts is currently scheduled for August 28 to August 30 (coronavirus concerns permitting). Tomjanovich will be part of a star-studded 2020 class that includes Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett.

Former Rocket Mario Elie’s tweet summed up the feelings of many of Tomjanovich’s players in the wake of the news.

For Tomjanovich, it’s a long overdue honor. This humble players’ coach built the heart of a champion ethos that fueled the Rockets to those two championships. He helped pave the way for future coaches who realized you didn’t have to be a dictator to be an innovator. Steve Kerr, Mike D’Antoni and even baseball managers like A.J. Hinch all followed something of the Rudy Tomjanovich playbook in treating their players like active allies rather than pieces to order around.

Tomjanovich also pulled off one of the greatest feats in modern sports, guiding the sixth-seeded Rockets to the 1995 NBA Championship. That is still the lowest playoff seed to ever win an NBA title.

Rudy T had a way of making his players believe no matter.

Now, he is a Basketball Hall of Famer. About time. Rudy Tomjanovich is going into the Hall. Something’s finally right in this corner of the sports world.

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