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NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: FINAL FOUR


March 31, 2018


Lefty Driesell

Rick Welts

Maurice "Mo" Cheeks

Rod Thorn

Tina Thompson

Charlie Scott

Steve Nash

Jason Kidd


San Antonio, Texas

Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame

THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Paul Lambert, I'm the vice president at the basketball Hall of Fame. We want to thank you all for joining us this afternoon for this very special occasion. On behalf of all of us from Springfield, Massachusetts, our president John Doleva, who is at the women's Final Four in Columbus, Ohio.

There are several members of the class who couldn't join us today. I just wanted to mention them in passing before we talk to folks who are here. There are three folks who couldn't join us at all in San Antonio for a variety of reasons. The first one is a lady who is being recognized posthumously, elected by our early African-American Pioneers Committee just a remarkable story and I hope you all do some research about miss Ora Mae Washington, arguably the greatest female athlete of her time, a great basketball player, a great tennis player. And we're delighted to include her in the class of 2018.

In Europe, one of the greatest European players of all time, a multi-time champion in Croatia, Yugoslavia and Greece, Dino Radja, elected one of the 50 great players in the history of FIBA basketball, joins the class of 2018.

And also unable to join us because she is actually in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, Katie Smith, the greatest scorer in the history of women's basketball. And we're delighted to include Ms. Smith in this class as well.

The last class member who couldn't join us this afternoon because he's actually working upstairs is a remarkable player, 19-year NBA career, great collegiate player, Mr. Grant Hill, who has to go upstairs because he's calling the games tonight. So he won't be with us this afternoon as he gets ready for that job.

But let me tell you a little bit about the folks on stage with us, members of the class of 2018.

First, from this end, this gentleman was the first African-American scholarship student in the University of North Carolina, went up to be rookie of the year in ABA, set a record actually for scoring in the ABA and went on to a tremendous career in the NBA, Mr. Charlie Scott.

A top executive in so many levels for being a great player at the University of West Virginia, went on to a multitime career across the NBA in a variety of roles. One of the true gentleman of the game, our good friend, Mr. Rod Thorn.

(Applause).

This gentleman came out of a smaller school in West Texas and went on to an outstanding career with the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the great off-ball defenders and one of the great point guards of his era, now an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Mr. Maurice Cheeks.

(Applause).

One of the great shooters, one of the great all-around players, we've been having fun remembering before he became a champion with the Celtics and the Heat, what a great player he was in Seattle and Milwaukee, and we're so honored to have him join the class of 2018, Mr. Ray Allen.

(Applause).

Talk about champions, how about back-to-back-to-back-to-back champions, the first woman drafted in the WNBA, Ms. Tina Thompson.

(Applause).

This gentleman, one of the great point guards, everyone told me how not just difficult he was to guard -- we have tremendous point guards up here -- how strong he was, what a great passer he was and how he made his teammates so much better. His records stand by themselves as you look them up in the record book and so many top fives in NBA history. We're delighted to welcome to the class, Mr. Jason Kidd.

(Applause).

Back-to-back NBA MVPs says it all. Coming out of a small mid-major to an outstanding career in the NBA, this gentleman has been just a joy for us to meet and we're so honored to include him in the class of 2018, Mr. Steve Nash.

(Applause).

A top executive who I was lucky enough to work with for many years at the NBA where he ran NBA Properties and invented All-Star Saturday Night and so many other marvelous things about the Dream Team and WNBA. He's now the COO of the multi-champion Golden State Warriors, Mr. Rick Welts.

(Applause).

And finally at the end here, a gentleman who took four NCAA teams to remarkable heights, winning 786 games in his outstanding collegiate career, credited largely with inventing Midnight Madness among other things, please join us in welcoming Mr. Lefty Driesell.

(Applause)

So it's an unbelievable class we have. I'd like to start by asking each member of the class to kind of give us a quick reflection of what this moment means to them as we start today.

Coach, maybe we can start with you, if you could speak into the microphone, share what your thoughts are as we sit here today now that you're a member of the Hall of Fame class of 2018.

LEFTY DRIESELL: Well, I feel humbled and grateful for all the players that played for me, one of them is here, Tom McMillen and he was a Rhodes Scholar, and I think it's more for my players and my coaching staff and my trainers and athletic directors that hired me than it is for me, because I'm 86 years old.

So I want them to enjoy it. I won't be around too long to enjoy. But I'm just proud of my players, and proud of the teams that I coached and proud of the institutions that are represented. And it's just a big honor and a thrill. It's the capstone of my professional career.

So I want to thank the hall of fame and all of the people that voted on me, for me, for voting. I'm just honored to be here.

THE MODERATOR: Rick.

RICK WELTS: I guess I'd say it's a dream come true, but I'd be lying because as a 16-year-old ball boy for the Seattle SuperSonics I would never have dreamed. To be here in the company of this class, many of whom my life is intertwined with in really significant ways, makes it even more special for me. So thanks very much.

THE MODERATOR: Steve.

STEVE NASH: This is an incredible feeling obviously to cap a career in this way. This is an individual recognition, but truly what makes it special is to share in my journey with so many people that go in with me that aren't here today. But most importantly to share this recognition with this class and all the hall of famers that have come before us is incredibly special and is what makes this honor such a prideful thing for me and my family. So thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Jason.

JASON KIDD: It's just very humbling, surreal to have this opportunity to play the game you love and to be honored with this class. I would like to thank the hall of fame for doing this. And it's really, again, being a team sport it's about my teammates and coaches. I'm hopefully representing them well here today.

THE MODERATOR: Tina.

TINA THOMPSON: I'm extremely overwhelmed, but also very proud, I mean, to be a part of this class of just not really talented players but extremely awesome people that I always enjoyed running into from time to time in the events that we were all at and just admiring them play.

I am proud to be representing my university and Southern Cal as well as the WNBA and being an Olympian. I've been able to experience unbelievable dreams through basketball and success. And just want to say thank you, and that I appreciate all the people that had a hand in allowing me to be able to do that at that level but also play the game that I love.

THE MODERATOR: Ray.

RAY ALLEN: Wow, it's a long journey. I think about everybody who had a hand in my growth, not only as an athlete but as a person. I think about being a young kid when I first started this game, not only the people who inspired me to be better but the people who challenged me by being negative in my direction that also allowed me to be better.

I think about all the teammates I've ever played with. I think about every moment that I had to question who I was. In those moments I didn't give up on myself. I think about my children who, as I go into the hall, their names will always be in the hall of fame. And it's an example for them as they move forward in their lives, and to be able to set this example. And to be able to go in with this class of individuals, people who I've admired and respected and used their example to grow who I am, the honor is certainly all mine.

THE MODERATOR: Maurice.

MAURICE "MO" CHEEKS: This is a very humbling experience for myself to think of the names that are in the hall of fame and to think that my name is associated with those names. It's overwhelming for myself. And to think of all the players I played with, who many times made me look good and helped me be up here today. So for me it's just a very, very humbling experience, and I'm overwhelmed inside.

THE MODERATOR: Rod.

ROD THORN: On the one hand, I feel very humbled. On the other hand, I feel very proud to be part of this distinguished class, to be part of an institution that you can only dream about, you don't really think about it, because there are so few people who are honored in this way.

I think of all the players I played with, all the players I coached, all of the people I work with through the various teams I've been associated with and to go in with Rick and Jason is, that makes me doubly proud because both of them have had, have been a big part of anything that I was able to accomplish.

So it's just when the Hall called it was a fantastic call and just very, very happy to be in this group.

THE MODERATOR: Charlie.

CHARLIE SCOTT: I guess I'm the last player, and I guess it's appropriate because I'm probably the oldest player up here. There's no probable, I am the oldest player up here. To me, it's great for me to go in because, see, I'm going in with all these other guys and when people ask me how good I am, because they still don't have too many black and white films of when I was playing.

But when they ask me how good I was, the I only thing I've got to say is, you know how good Jason Kidd was? And they say, yeah. You know how good Tina Thompson was? And they say, yeah. And you know how good Grant Hill was? You know you've got two-time MVP Steve Nash. And then we've got 10-time All-Star Ray Allen. They were lucky enough to go in the class with me. (Laughter).

So this is really a thrill for me -- and the thing about it, like you say, I never even dreamed about it. In fact I didn't even know I was going to be in it until Wednesday. I was making a trip with my wife to go on a cruise and hopefully she doesn't leave without me.

But it's an honor that I'm really happy to have and I just wish one person -- well, one person is here, he's at the other end, is Lefty Driesell. And if people don't know it, if it wasn't for Lefty there would be no Charlie Scott. He was the guy who first recruited me and really, I guess, he hated it, but he put my name in the newspaper.

And that was when Coach Smith saw it and that's when Coach Smith started recruiting me. So I gotta thank Lefty also. But Coach Smith and Larry Brown were two people that meant so much to my career and meant so much to me that I can't ever think enough about it.

And to be a hall of famer and to be a North Carolinian to me are two things I will always honor. This is something that I never even dreamed about, but now that I'm here, and I'm glad I'm here with Lefty, it's an honor that I will always cherish. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, sir.

(Applause)

Questions?

Q. Steve, as you reflect on this journey, being recruited by only one university, hard to believe you're sitting there? And also kind of a second part to that, what influence has Jay Triano had on this journey of yours?
STEVE NASH: Certainly an incredible perspective. I think, not to diminish it at all, but as you go through a career everything becomes sort of a natural progression, you make one level and then you make the next and the next, and before you know it you look back and you realize how many levels you gained.

That's when it becomes so improbable and so alarming to be here today is to think of some very humble beginnings as a kid with one scholarship offer to Santa Clara and just trying to make the most of it and scrapped my way into the league and then made a name for myself and just kept going.

So it is incredible to look back what passion and competitive spirit can do. And I think it's a great story for all kids out there.

And Jay Triano was a big figure in my life, recruited me out of high school, coached me in the Olympics. And he's one of those people that has so much passion for the game of basketball, taught me a lot. But most importantly he taught me to really love the game, respect it and give back to the game everything that you can, because the game will reciprocate.

It's not about accolades. It's about the joy of playing and having that competitive spirit and doing it every day. And I think sometimes you forget that until you don't do it anymore. And you realize how much you miss the opportunity to compete and play and love the game like we got to do for so long. So Jay had a big impact.

Q. Any of you players, you're all guards, but specifically for Steve and Jason, what do you think about the way the game has evolved and guard play is so important, particularly the art of passing is so important, even here in the Final Four?
STEVE NASH: Well, the evolution of the game is incredible. I think our game's in a great place. The game is fast. The game is skillful. There's a lot of depth. And it's beautiful to watch. We have our challenges still, in society and the game, to continue to teach our young players to play. But the way they're playing the game and the way the NBA has been able to craft our sport has been phenomenal.

JASON KIDD: Well, I think echoing Steve, the game is in a great place. A lot of us at this table enjoyed the pass, enjoyed the improvement of a teammate. And so when you see the college game or you see the pro game, the pass sometimes is underrated. But we understand how important it is to pass. And hopefully again the college teachers are doing a great job of teaching and at the highest level we're trying to teach the kids to pass the ball and not just rely on just shooting the 3.

If you ask Ray, he had to get the pass to shoot it. So understanding that it makes the game fun and it keeps the rhythm to the game, too.

Q. [Inaudible] how frustrating would that have been if you, at 86, were to be turned down again?
LEFTY DRIESELL: Look, a lot of things in life I've learned that you have to wait for. You know, you don't come and build a program in the first week. It takes sometimes months. So I know I was very, very excited to get in. And now being in? I can't tell you how happy I am and happy for my players, as I said, and my coaches and the universities that I coached.

Q. [Inaudible]?
LEFTY DRIESELL: Well, I probably would have been in here a lot earlier if he would have come to Davidson, (laughter) because he knocked us out of the Final Four twice. And once we had a one-point lead with about six seconds left and he made what would have been a 3-pointer today to beat us. So Charlie and I have always been great friends. Even when he was at North Carolina, he came to work my camps. And so I've always loved Charlie. He's been a great player and a great person, great friend.

Q. Steve, what does it mean to you to be going into the hall of fame as a Canadian, the pride the country has in you as a player and now a hall of famer?
STEVE NASH: Yes, it's an incredible honor for me to represent my country, obviously. You know, we definitely aren't known necessarily historically for basketball, but Dr. Naismith was a Canadian. So we have obviously a rooting interest in the game and the hall of fame. So to represent my country is incredible.

And I would say the fruit of playing the game as hard as I could for as long as I could has brought me an opportunity to watch as now, I think, we have the second-most NBA players than any other country in the United States. So when I came into the league that was an idea that would have been laughed off the table.

And so to see so many players and more in the pipeline coming from Canada is something that makes all the hard work that I put in and all the coaches and all the passion that people have for the game up in Canada, that makes it really special and worthwhile.

So I get more excited about these young kids than I do about looking back on my career, frankly. And it's fantastic to represent my country, but incredible to see so many Canadians in the NBA now.

Q. Tina, we were talking last night about the great franchises who have a lot of players in the hall of fame -- the Celtics, the Lakers, the Sixers, et cetera. And we were noticing how many Houston Comets are now entering the hall of fame, coaches and players. What made that team so special and what are your reflections of that team?
TINA THOMPSON: I think what made it so special, we were pretty good individually, but there was an unselfishness that came to when we got on the court that allowed us to be successful. Another thing is that we were very, very competitive in practice.

If anyone knows Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper, their competitive levels were off the charts. There were times where our practices, in my opinion, were much tougher than the games we were in. So when you have that kind of competitiveness, that kind of drive in practice every day, I mean Cynthia Cooper was the example for me.

I recall a time when I first got to Houston, you know, young girl from California, I was definitely a fish out of water. And I presumed that I was coming to practice really early, so I was there a little over an hour before thinking I would get in get some shots in.

Cynthia Cooper was already in a full sweat. She was running suicides by herself. And my first thought was I need to step up my game. I was 22 years old, and she was, I think, 34. So, yeah, it was one of those things where I definitely was not ahead of the game.

But that example of her changed my mindset in a sense. And my work ethic I took to another level because of that. So when you have -- when you're surrounded by that kind of drive and that greatness, it's pretty easy in my opinion to be successful.

Q. Maurice, they talked about the role of a point guard today. Back when you played the point guard played a slightly different role. Could you talk about what your role was different in the game today and how it's evolved in your eyes?
MAURICE "MO" CHEEKS: I think today's game the point guard is more of a scorer, although he can still facilitate. But today's game is more of a scorer's attitude, with the ability to still score. And when I was playing, it was more or less just making sure I was taking care of the players. That was my prime job was to make sure I took care of the players and I got joy out of doing that.

I listened to Steve and Jason over here and I can see why they were so great at what they do because they always talk about their teammates. And in order to be a great point guard, you have to be more in tune with your teammates. And I think that's what made me such a player. The player I became was because of my teammates.

And as I said, as I listened to these guys, the reason why they were so great is because they were so in tune with their teammates. And to be a great point guard you have to be in tune, knowing when a guy is not going well, knowing when he is going well, and the things you can do to pick your team up. That was mostly my job.

That's why I say I'm sitting up here basically because of a lot of players I played with. They made my job easier. The coaches I played for made my job easier and I still can't believe I'm sitting up here.

Q. Rick, Rod, you gentlemen are uniquely qualified to remember a generation ago what the NBA looked like before the global explosion of basketball that the hard work of gentlemen like you led to as the game grew around the world. Your reflections on the NBA's growth in your lifetime from when you began with a league as to what it is today?
RICK WELTS: Well, I fell in love with the game, as you said, in a different era, watching Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell play at the Seattle Center Coliseum against my favorite Sonics. To fast forward to where we are today is unreal.

Halfway to the journey, I got to the NBA in 1982. I was employee No. 35 at the NBA. When I left the league office in 1999 we had a little over 1100 people in offices all around the world. And to see each era -- the Bird-Magic era and the Jordan era -- to see how momentum built around the world for this sport that with soccer are the only two games that are played worldwide, we're at a rare moment in time.

But I think we're at a midpoint of the popularity of the game. As we look out, look forward and see what these athletes and the players on our courts today mean to kids around the world.

It's inspiration. It's healthy. It's representing values that I think the sport of basketball teaches. And all of us who have had an opportunity to be on the journey together I think celebrate what basketball was but also celebrate what basketball is today and into the future.

ROD THORN: I'm like Lefty. I've been around a long time. And when I played the game during the '60s and the early '70s, we travelled coach, we stayed in motels basically, we played in arenas that were not nearly like these great arenas that the NBA has today.

It was really a mom-and-pop league. And as a player during the '60s, to see what has transpired in the NBA is absolutely mindboggling to me. But the league in every decade has gotten better, as Rick pointed out, better, stronger.

I think a real impetus was 1992 Olympics when the world saw just how great our players were and now we're going to have to do something to catch up. And now we have all of these players from foreign countries who are in our league. Virtually a quarter or a fifth of the players in the league are from a foreign country. And they've made an incredible impact on our league. Analytics, obviously, has made an impact in our league.

Our game was always inside/out. You threw it in, cut maybe threw it back out for a shot, a lot of shots inside. Today it's more outside-in -- more 3-pointers, there always were a lot of drives to the hoop. So the game has changed rather dramatically.

And as someone pointed out earlier, we have a beautiful game today, both on the collegiate and the professional level. And who knows what's liable to happen in another 10 or 15 years? But from the NBA's perspective, you know, it's very healthy. Most all of the franchises are doing very, very well. It's just sort of the golden age of the NBA.

Q. Ray, you made great teammates and wonderful teams along the way, but you played on three of the greatest teams ever at UConn, the Celtics and the Heat, among others. When you think about those teams, what made them so special? What made that cohesion happen between the players, the coaches the whole group as you reflect back?
RAY ALLEN: I think it's similar to what everybody is saying up here, is the unselfish nature of each one of the players. We were in a system in college that we all understood what it was that the coach wanted, and we knew we didn't want to be on the bad side of Coach Jim Calhoun. So, we did everything we could to win.

And ultimately what it boiled down for us is really knowing how to compete. And he taught us how to win. As a young player coming into college, I didn't really know what that meant because I played basketball to win. So when you have to say you have to know how to win, we had to learn that. And it broke down into basic fundamentals, like learning how to rebound down the stretch, learning how to make free throws, learning how not to turn the ball over. You get to the NBA and you find out those small, little things really are so important.

And so the teams in the NBA that I played on that were incredible were the ones that did those very things. We didn't give games away. We knew at the end of the game we were always going to give ourselves a chance to win?

Q. Charlie, you have a unique perspective in that '75-'76 Finals between the Celtics and Suns. You had played for Phoenix for four years and then Boston in '75 and '76. What do you remember about those Finals?
CHARLIE SCOTT: It was unique because -- it was really funny. I mean, I was traded from Phoenix and then, funny thing about it, I was traded, I remember the day. It was May 27th. We were ready to take a trip to Rio, the players association, and Larry Fleisher came up to me and told me I was being traded.

I said where was I traded to? And he told me I was traded to the Celtics. And I asked him who was I traded for? He told me I was traded for Paul Westphal. And at the time, when you're 22 and you're arrogant like me, I said, "They had to get more than Paul Westphal for me." (Laughter)

He told me they got Paul Westphal and two draft choices. So I said, okay, that makes sense.

But then to turn around and to play Phoenix in the final, you know, was a unique experience. And people don't know this, and it's nothing to be proud of, but I still hold the record for the most games fouled out in a championship games. I fouled out five straight games because I was guarding Paul Westphal, too.

But to turn around and play the team that you were playing against, that you had just been playing for, it was a unique experience. But it also was a competitive edge because I wanted to win. I wanted to show that I was a player. And Bob Ryan, I don't know if he's in here now, but when I first got to Boston, Bob Ryan was worried about me and Jo Jo playing together because we had such different personalities.

So it was a challenge to me to show people that I was the ball player that was a part of a championship team. But to play against Phoenix and to play in a triple overtime game against Phoenix, everybody tells me it was a great game. I don't really remember because I fouled out in the fourth quarter and they had three overtimes after that. I was sitting on the side fuming.

It was a great experience and to play against a team that traded you and to win the championship, you know, it's the ultimate circumstance that a ball player would always like to do. You know, I hate to say it, Jerry's not here, but to get that little jab back to say, hey, you should have kept me, you know.

But no, to play in the championship game is great. But, I mean, to me, and, like I said, and all these guys said, I don't think any ball player ever goes around saying I'm going to be a hall of famer. I mean, I don't think you ever think about being a hall of famer. I think what you do, you think about being the best ball player you can be on that court.

And, like I said, all these people here, I've watched them play. I mean, Jason Kidd doesn't remember it, but when he came to Atlanta in 1992 he was McDonald's All-American. I was on the board then and I watched him and they told me how this little kid was a great basketball player. And I watched him play at the University of California.

And Ray Allen, I watched him at Connecticut. He played for Boston guy, Jim Calhoun, so I was always interested in him.

And Steve Nash, when I played for Phoenix, they had Connie Hawkins already, so I thought maybe I'd be the next greatest ball player to play for Phoenix, but Steve Nash and Charles Barkley threw that out the window.

So it's a great experience. And to be in the hall of fame, when you ask people, well, how does it feel to be in the hall of fame, you really don't talk about it much. But like last night after I got back from the meeting and I went in the shower by myself, and I told everybody, I went in the shower and I started screaming because at one point in time you want to let it all out, but you know we are too egotistical to let it out in front of all you people. So we're not going to let you know how we feel about it, but when I got into the shower I screamed like hell.

THE MODERATOR: With that, thank you all.

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