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Old rivals enjoy a friendly reception at State House

Joe Dumars, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, and Geno Auriemma walked around the State House like kings yesterday, an unlikely occurrence given that all have given Massachusetts sports fans their share of heartache over the years.

This time, they weren't members of dreaded sports rivals, but representatives of the latest class of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Each was feted by lawmakers with a ceremony in the Senate, a reception outside the House of Representatives, and a news conference at the foot of the building's Grand Staircase.

It was a victory lap one day after their induction was announced, a nod to Springfield as the birthplace of basketball, and to Boston as the host of the 25th anniversary NCAA Women's Final Four championship. The announcement was made Monday in Indianapolis before the NCAA men's basketball championship. The induction ceremony will be Sept. 8-9 in Springfield.

''Most of us for different reasons -- Joe with the [Detroit] Pistons and Charles with the [Philadelphia] Sixers and Dominique when he was with [the] Atlanta [Hawks]-- every time we've come to the Boston area, it's not been under friendly conditions," said Auriemma, who has won five national championships and nearly 600 games as coach of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team. ''We've got to let Dave speak for us."

Auriemma referred to Dave Gavitt, considered the father of Big East basketball and a former executive with the Celtics. He was also in the class of inductees, along with Italian coach Sandro Gamba.

Thompson on the ball
Arkansas assistant Ronny Thompson was hired as Ball State's coach, the second son of Hall of Fame coach John Thompson to run a Division 1 team. It's the first head coaching job for Thompson, who turns 37 Friday. He played for his father and then was an assistant under him for five years at Georgetown. Thompson spent the past three seasons under Arkansas coach Stan Heath. His older brother, John Thompson 3d, is now the Hoyas' coach . . . Montana State hired Montana assistant Brad Huse as its head man, replacing longtime coach Mick Durham with one of his former assistants.

Wooden feeling better
Former UCLA coach John Wooden may be released from a hospital as early as today, his daughter said. The 95-year-old Hall of Fame coach was admitted to a hospital near his home in the San Fernando Valley Sunday for diverticulitis, an inflammation of the area around the colon . . . Rajon Rondo is giving up his last two years at Kentucky to enter the NBA draft and will hire an agent, ending his college eligibility. Rondo, a versatile 6-foot-6-inch point guard, led Kentucky in points, rebounds, assists, and steals as a sophomore . . . Louisiana Tech forward Paul Millsap, the first player to lead the nation in rebounding three consecutive years, will skip his final year of eligibility to enter the NBA draft . . . Dee Brown of Illinois won the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's best small player. Brown, who at 6 feet is the maximum height to qualify for the award, led the Fighting Illini in scoring (14.2 points per game), assists (5.8), and steals (1.6) . . . The title game between Florida and UCLA drew an 11.2 Nielsen rating for CBS, down 25 percent from last year's final. Florida's 73-57 victory over UCLA Monday was watched by 12.31 million households.

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