Leslie heads Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction class
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) This year is proving doubly rewarding for Lisa Leslie.
The three-time WNBA most valuable player and four-time Olympic gold medalist will enter the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday. Three months later, the former Southern California and Los Angeles Sparks star will enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Although dozens of people are members of both halls of fame, Leslie is the first player to get inducted to each of them in the same calendar year. The only others were former UCLA and Cal State Fullerton coach Billie Moore in 1999, former Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore in 2003 and Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma in 2006.
''It's interesting to go into the Hall of Fame and get such an individual award for a team sport,'' said the 42-year-old Leslie, who retired after the 2009 season. ''I really didn't get here alone. I've had so many amazing coaches and teammates and family support. I guess whenever I thought about the Hall of Fame, I thought it was something that happened when you were so much older.''
Leslie is the WNBA's all-time leader in rebounds (3,307) and ranks second in blocks (822) and fifth in points (6,263). She was named the WNBA's MVP in 2001, 2004 and 2006, and she led the Sparks to consecutive titles in 2001-02.
This year's induction class for the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame also includes former Houston Comets and Brazilian national team star Janeth Arcain, former Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke, former Duke and Texas coach Gail Goestenkors, former Georgia star Janet Harris and former Oregon high school coach Brad Smith.
The Hall of Fame also is recognizing the Immaculata College teams of 1972-74 as ''trailblazers of the game.''
''To be here is like a dream,'' Arcain said. ''It's like another dream, another title, another medal. I'm so happy, so happy.''
Arcain is a four-time Olympian who played on four WNBA championship teams with the Comets. Goestenkors, currently an assistant with the WNBA's Indiana Fever, owns a 498-163 college head coaching record that includes four Final Four appearances. Harris was the first NCAA women's basketball player to combine for 2,500 career points and 1,250 rebounds.
Budke, who was killed in a plane crash in 2011, is the first person to be inducted posthumously since Ora Washington in 2009. Budke led Trinity Valley to four national junior-college championships before posting a combined 192-99 record at Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma State.
Smith, who won 10 state championships in 27 seasons at Oregon City High School, is the first high school coach to get inducted since Leta Andrews in 2010.
On the eve of Saturday's induction, the Hall of Fame held an afternoon ceremony to name its south rotunda after former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who played an instrumental role in bringing this facility to Knoxville. This marks the first time the Hall of Fame has named a section of its building after anyone.
Summitt, a member of the Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 1999, won eight national titles and 1,098 games - the most of any men's or women's college coach - in 38 seasons at Tennessee. She stepped down as the Lady Vols' coach in 2012, one year after announcing she had early-onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.
Summitt didn't attend Friday's ceremony, but Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick spoke on her behalf. Warlick, who played for Summitt and worked as her assistant for 27 seasons, said she spoke to Summitt while visiting her home on Thursday.
''I know she'd be up here saying, `Thank you,' from the bottom of her heart,'' Warlick said. ''But she'd say it's not about her. It's about God's faith, it's about family love, friendships and this great game of basketball.''
Dana Hart, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame president, said the hall's board of directors originally wanted to name the whole building after Summitt, but the former Lady Vols coach didn't want that because she believed ''the Hall of Fame is for all women - all women and men who have coached or played basketball.'' Hart said Summitt preferred the idea of having the rotunda named in her honor.