Here is Ryan's tribute to Satch via a Boston Globe column today:
Satch Sanders Induction, A Nod to the Working Man:
HOUSTON — You had to feel sorry for Dennis Rodman, still desperate for attention five weeks shy of his 50th birthday.
There he stood yesterday, a newly elected member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He had the baseball cap on tilt, the shades, the earrings, the lip piercings, the garish shirt, and an indescribable vest with some scarf-like thing draped around his neck.
And directly next to him stood Thomas “Satch’’ Sanders, The Coolest Man In the World. Talk about a mismatch.
Satch, as always, exuded class. He had on a dark suit, and he was wearing his trademark bow tie. It goes without saying that, at 72, he looks as if he could step on the court tonight and hold Kevin Durant to 10.
But Satch, ever gracious, paid tribute to Rodman as someone he could relate to — on the court. Were they not both members of the same hoop fraternity?
“Dennis Rodman is a man who did all the quote-unquote dirty work, did he not?’’ Satch pointed out. “And all he did was win.’’
Satch Sanders likewise did the dirty work for the Celtics. What Red Auerbach, Bill Russell, and Tom Heinsohn wanted out of him was to guard the other team’s high-scoring forward, hit the boards, set picks, and snack on a few offensive crumbs here and there. Somebody had to do it, and Sanders did it well enough to help those ’60s Celtics teams win eight championships.
No man could be more comfortable in his own skin or be more realistic about just where he fits into the Big Scheme Of Things in both Celtics and NBA history. He was not a star. He never even had a faint sniff of an All-Star appearance. He was a worker bee, and he was, well, cool with that.
That’s why this Hall of Fame thing will take a while to settle in.
“I never expected this,’’ he said. “Not after all those years went by and all the others went in. I figured the time had certainly passed for me. The reality is that I’m catching up to the other guys again. That’s the truth of it.’’
By “the others’’ he means the 11 teammates of the ’60s and ’70s (he played from 1960-73) who have preceded him in Springfield. The only prominent members of the bunch that won every available title in the ’60s, except for 1967, who do not reside in the Hall of Fame are Jim Loscutoff and Don Nelson (who may yet be enshrined as a coach).
The only catch is that Satch officially will be enshrined as a “contributor’’ in recognition of his postcareer accomplishments, which include his service to the NBA (where he ran the rookie transition program for many years) and his work with such entities as the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern. He already has been given the Hall’s John Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award. Now he gets the full treatment.
Satch and quasi-soulmate Rodman are two of a 10-member class that will be inducted Aug. 12. The others: University of Georgia, WNBA, and Olympic great Teresa Edwards; Stanford and Olympic coach Tara VanDerveer; Lithuanian stalwart Arvydas Sabonis; renowned coach and innovator Tex Winter; Harlem Globetrotter clown prince Reece “Goose’’ Tatum; ABA and NBA great Artis Gilmore (who had a brief stint with the Celtics); Philadelphia University coaching legend (winner of more than 900 games) and famed shooting instructor Herb Magee; and St. John’s star, NBA great, and Dream Teamer Chris Mullin.Now they can call Sanders a “contributor,’’ but once you’re in, you’re in, and Satch is going to be in there as an inspiration to all those dirty-work guys at every level. Let the world know that Sanders was a player of true distinction.
When he came to the Celtics as their first-round pick in 1960, he was jumping onto a very fast-moving train. The Celtics had just won their third title in four years. No rookie had made an impact the year before. It was not like he was made to feel, you know, needed.
He had been an offensive star as a 6-foot-6-inch center at New York University, but he quickly surmised that defense would provide the key to Auerbach’s heart. And so he outfitted himself with elbow pads and a pair of foam rubber knee pads he fashioned himself, the better to protect his body once he began the dives on the floor he was sure would win over his new coach.
“Red took one look at my elbow pads and knee pads and screamed, ‘Hey! I don’t want guys like you on the team. You’re soft. A pansy. Get rid of ’em,’ ’’ Satch recalled.
He didn’t have to. “Jungle Jim Loscutoff took them and hid them somewhere at Babson Institute, where we trained,’’ Satch explained.
The story eventually culminated in a you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up development. A number of years ago Satch was back at Babson, and he was overwhelmed with curiosity. He poked around in the ceiling ducts and guess what he found? No, really.
“They hadn’t held up too well over the years,’’ Satch said of the elbow and knee pads that had spent more than three decades hidden at Babson.
The pads might not have held up well, but Satch has. My unsolicited advice to the other inductees concerning the night of Aug. 12: don’t stand too close to Satch Sanders. For you, too, will be involved in a mismatch.