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Houston Rockets: The annual Hall of Fame snub of Rudy Tomjanovich

Houston Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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With the recent basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement, it has become an unfortunate yearly reminder that Rudy Tomjanovich is not in the Hall of Fame. Every April the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announces its inductees and for the last three April’s, it has left out Tomjanovich.

When you win back to back championships as a coach, become a five-time All-Star as a player and finish fourth on the Rockets all-time scoring list you have accomplished a lot. This doesn’t include his .559 winning percentage as a coach, winning a gold medal as head coach in 2000 and being the Wolverines all-time leading rebounder. Even with all these accolades, Rudy Tomjanovich is still on the outside looking in when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

Similar resumes of coaches already in the Hall of Fame

When looking at the Hall of Fame in basketball there are a couple of items to consider. The first is that it is the Basketball Hall of Fame, not just the NBA so you have to factor in a player’s college career as well. Second, there isn’t a limit on the number of people who can be inducted each year. These coaches are already in the Hall of Fame but have similar or in some cases worst resumes than Tomjanovich.

Bill Fitch

The former championship coach of the Boston Celtics was recently inducted into the 2019 Hall of Fame class. A .460 regular-season winning percentage along with one championship as a coach in 1981 (coincidentally Rudy Tomjanovich last year as a player with the Rockets) and 944 total wins, Fitch is definitely an accomplished coach. He never played in college but coached for 40 years. This is why my above statement about college as a consideration is important. Arguably a top 3 all-time Wolverine, Tomjanovich was not just a great coach but also an All American college player.

Paul Westphal

The former Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics coach was also a very good NBA player. He was a 5-time All-Star, won a championship as a player in 1974 and had a .533 regular-season winning percentage as a coach. Another example of a player and coach with a good resume. This is where the issue comes in. In the mid-90s Westphal was the coach of the Suns with Charles Barkley and one of the top teams in the league. In the 1994-1995 season, the Suns were knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual champions coached by Tomjanovich. That would be the closest Westphal would ever again get to a championship in his coaching career.

Putting the resumes in perspective

Let’s put the coaching resumes into perspective. With two championships as a coach, Tomjanovich has more than both Fitch and Westphal have combined. His .559 regular-season winning percentage is better than both coaches. Neither Fitch nor Westphal have gold medals as a coach and Tomjanvich does. Factor in Tomjanovich’s All-American college career along with his All-Star NBA career and the case is clear. Keep in mind these are just a few coaches who have similar numbers. There are more who have lesser resumes that are already in the Hall of Fame.

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There are only 14 NBA head coaches in the Hall of Fame and only one non-active coach that won multiple titles who is not in the Hall of Fame and that is Rudy Tomjanovich. Every person who is in the Hall of Fame deserves to be there and this is not a slight against them. A basketball resume full of accomplishments from the University of Michigan to the Houston Rockets, Rudy Tomjanovich’s name should be read at the 2020 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announcements.

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