Hall of Fame notebook

Stringer still has many miles to go

By Julian Benbow and Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / September 12, 2009

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SPRINGFIELD - The moment called for her to talk about her emotions as she prepared to take her place in basketball history. But as C. Vivian Stringer answered questions, a young girl from a Springfield elementary school reminded her of her future responsibilities.

A small face in a larger crowd of media gathered at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s induction of five new members, including Stringer. The girl asked Rutgers’ decorated women’s basketball coach, “What advice do you have for inner-city girls who have no way out?’’

Stringer took a deep breath.

She had already talked about how for her, it started with a dream. The daughter of a coal miner in Edenborn, Pa., Stringer broke into coaching in 1972 at Cheyney University, learning under Hall of Fame men’s coach John Chaney before moving to the University of Iowa.

She had talked about how much strength it took to leave Iowa for Rutgers in 1995, three years after losing her husband, Bill, to a heart attack at age 47.

“When I left the University of Iowa after the loss of my husband, I knew that I had to leave, because I had to start going forward,’’ she said.

She’s earned 305 of her 825 wins in 14 seasons at Rutgers, joining John Thompson and Geno Auriemma as one of the great coaches in Big East history. She became the first coach to take three different programs to the NCAA Final Four (Cheyney in 1982, Iowa in 1993, and Rutgers in 2000 and 2007). But when she looked at the girl, she said it was bigger than the victories. It was about the dream and whether you’re able to see it.

“I think that I’m an example of a young woman who did see,’’ Stringer told her. “The opportunities that you have are only limited by your dreams.’’

Stringer told the girl she still remembered meeting Cappie Pondexter, one of Stringer’s former players and now a guard for the Phoenix Mercury.

“I remember going to Chicago and picking up a girl named Cappie Pondexter,’’ she said. “Now, she’s known all over world. She’s an Olympian. She’s bought homes for her mom and her family. She’s made wise investments. And I’m so proud of her.’’

More than her individual achievements, Stringer said her induction reminds her of her responsibility to women’s basketball.

“So contrary to what people may see,’’ she said, “I’m here perhaps because of the success, the wins that we’ve had, but the truth of the matter is that the reason I say that I continue to coach is because I’m trying to create young women that are leaders to serve as role models. So my work is never done.’’

In a way, Stringer’s work was right in front of her. “You,’’ she told the girl, “are extremely important.’’

John Stockton said he thought he’d be quickly headed on a bus back to Spokane after he was a first-round pick of the Utah Jazz in 1984. Stockton said he saved every penny of his rookie check, and he wasn’t kidding. Stockton lived as if he was a college freshman, not NBA rookie.

“I thought they’d figure me out pretty quickly,’’ Stockton said. “The Jazz would figure out they’d made a mistake. So I did get the first paycheck and save every cent. I rented a one-bedroom apartment that was already furnished, never bought a television set, went to the discount food store, bought cans of chili, made my mom’s lasagna and packed it in the fridge. So I was sure I was a one-year-and-out guy. I don’t know if that ever changed.’’

Stars come out
Celtic guard Ray Allen attended the ceremonies along with Spurs center Tim Duncan, former Bulls forward Scottie Pippen, Utah center Mark Eaton, Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale, and recently retired guard Bruce Bowen. Celtics assistant coach Clifford Ray, who was a Chicago Bulls teammate of Jerry Sloan, also attended . . . Michael Jordan touched on the long-running sentiment that Stockton was one of the league’s dirtiest players. “I wouldn’t say Stockton was the dirtiest player in the league. I can name a few others. You can say dirty. I say he’s a tough, hard-nosed type of guy who played with every inch of his body physically and mentally.’’

Allen looking to stay
It’s a critical year for Allen, 34, who enters the final year of his contract. He wants to stay in Boston.

“Of course [I want to stay], but it will be dealt with in its time,’’ said Allen, who will make $19.7 million in the final year of the $85 million deal he signed with Seattle. “My job doesn’t change. I gotta go out and do the same things.’’

Allen said the Celtics players have been working out individually in Waltham. He said Kevin Garnett has been working out individually but the team hasn’t begun pickup games.

Coming back
The ceremonies could return to Symphony Hall next year as Karl Malone and Pippen will be eligibile. Other candidates include Mark Jackson, Chris Mullin, and Dennis Rodman, plus the WNBA’s Cynthia Cooper . . . Hall CEO John Doleva announced the late John “Red’’ Kerr as winner of the John Bunn award, considered the Hall of Fame’s “most prestigious award outside of enshrinement.’’

Frank Dell’Apa of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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