KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — It never occurred to Charlie Scott that he would make history when he accepted a scholarship offer from Dean Smith to play basketball at North Carolina in the late 1960s.
He just wanted to play the game he loved.
But his coach, who passed away in February, knew that things were changing across the socio-political landscape with Scott’s arrival. The moment he stepped on campus in Chapel Hill, he had become the first black player in any sport under scholarship at North Carolina.
“Being the first black in the South was not something I understood the importance of. Coach Smith understood its significance a lot better than I did,” said Scott, who joined his late coach in the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday. “I was blessed to play for someone like him.”
Scott was joined in this year’s class by four other players: Kansas State’s Rolando Blackman, Indiana’s Quinn Buckner, Ohio State’s John Havlicek and Long Beach State star Ed Ratleff.
Three coaches joined them: Lou Henson of New Mexico State and Illinois, Don Donoher of Dayton and the late C. Felton “Zip” Gayles,” who spent 35 years at Langston University.
“I like to remember coaching, making it to the Final Four in ‘67,” said Donoher, who wound up finishing second to UCLA that year. “I lived off that experience for a long time.”
This is the 10th class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, though the inaugural class with such luminaries as John Wooden and Oscar Robertson grandfathered in players, coaches and staff that had already been enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
To celebrate the anniversary, Robertson returned for a special salute along with such fellow members as Ralph Sampson, Xavier McDaniel, Phil Ford and broadcaster Billy Packer.
“The thing I remember most of all was Bill Walton speaking for 25 minutes. I’m glad he’s not here,” Robertson said with a grin. “This is a great, great event.”
The induction ceremony took place Friday at the Arvest Theatre at the Midland in downtown Kansas City, not far from the Hall of Fame at the College Basketball Experience.
Next door at the Sprint Center, top-ranked North Carolina will join Kansas State, Missouri and Northwestern in the championship rounds of the CBE Classic beginning Monday night.
Naturally, Scott will be cheering on the Tar Heels.
With integration still occurring across the South, he helped to pave the way for thousands of black athletes at North Carolina and elsewhere. During his playing he career, he helped lead North Carolina to a pair of Final Four appearances and was a two-time All-American. Scott later won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 1976.
“The biggest thing I miss about college basketball now is teaching,” he said. “When I played, coaches were teaching. They taught basketball players how to be better basketball players.”
Like Scott, his fellow inductees were already plenty good when they arrived.
Blackman was a three-time All-Big Eight guard under Jack Hartman at Kansas State, then was a four-time All-Star in the NBA. Known primarily for his defense, he hit one of the greatest shots in school history, a buzzer-beater against No. 1 Oregon State in the 1981 NCAA Tournament.
Buckner helped Indiana to a national title in 1976 under Bob Knight, the last team to finish a season unbeaten. He then played 10 seasons in the NBA, winning a championship with the Celtics.
Havlicek, a two-time All-American, also won an NCAA championship with the Buckeyes in 1960. He went on to play 16 seasons in the NBA, winning eight championships.
Ratleff was a two-time All-American for coach Jerry Tarkanian at Long Beach State, though his teams seemed to get beat every year by UCLA. Back then, the NCAA Tournament was more regional.
“It’s interesting,” Ratleff said wryly, “to see how they play the tournament now.”
All three coaches inducted Friday had successful careers at just one or two schools, a rarity these days. Henson remains the winningest coach at New Mexico State and Illinois, while Donoher had 437 wins at Dayton. Gayles once led NAIA school Langston to 51 consecutive victories.
Henson and Donoher both spun stories of their days on campus. But as so often happens when a couple coaches begin to reminisce, the subject of officiating was bound to come up.
“Our ‘84 team (at Illinois) was good enough to go to the Final Four and maybe win it, but we had to play Kentucky at Kentucky. That was the last time a regional was played at the home of a school,” Henson said, grinning. “They beat us, but they had the help of the