Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jo Jo White joins Hall of Fame

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Jo Jo White, left, pauses to acknowledge applause during the enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2015 of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts. At right is White’s Boston Celtics teammate, Hall of Famer Dave Cowens.

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Jo Jo White, left, pauses to acknowledge applause during the enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2015 of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts. At right is White’s Boston Celtics teammate, Hall of Famer Dave Cowens.


Dressed impeccably in dark suit and gray spotted tie, silk handkerchief in his left pocket, Jo Jo White stood tall and proud Friday night on the stage of the Springfield Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.

The 68-year-old former Kansas University and Boston Celtics guard watched along with the many dignitaries on hand as his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech played on the big screen.

“To the Hall, thank you for the tremendous honor,” White said in the video. “In May 2010 I was diagnosed with a tumor on my brain. The doctor said I wasn’t supposed to be here, but God had other plans, and for this I am truly grateful.”

White is fully recovered. However, because of the stress involved in reading a long speech, his pre-recorded statement played on the big screen.

“I always strived to be the best,” said White, a seven-time NBA all-star who won two world championships with the Celtics. He was MVP of the 1976 Finals.

“I tried out for my high school junior varsity team. I got cut. So what did I do? I went out for the varsity team and made it,” White added to laughter and applause from the audience.

“Our team’s head coach was a great role model who taught self-discipline and fundamentals of the game. Without that experience I would not be here today.

“I had two great mentors at the University of Kansas. My head coach, Ted Owens, and the team’s assistant, Sam Miranda. To Sam and Ted, I love you.

“Being drafted by the Celtics was one of the best things to ever happen to me. Red Auerbach (owner) was tough and a blatantly honest guy who I love and have so much respect for,” White added. “Our coach, Tommy Heinsohn was demanding and tough and always fair. And he was a winner. He always had my back. I had so many wonderful teammates over the years and I want to thank you all.”

White also thanked many members of his immediate family, including his late mother and father.

“Jo Jo was an ironman for us. Any time the game was on the line, he was a dependable guy,” said former Boston forward Dave Cowens, who presented White for induction.

“He was MVP of the (76) series. That’s where you get the Celtic pedigree come into play. You never give up until it’s over,” noted fellow Hall of Famer John Havlicek of the Celts.

White, who had his jersey No. 15 hung in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse in 2003 and Boston jersey No. 10 hoisted in The Garden in 1982, was inducted Friday with Dikembe Mutombo, John Calipari, Spencer Haywood, Dick Bavetta, Heinsohn, John Isaacs, Lindsay Gaze, Louis Dampier, Lisa Leslie and George Raveling.

Calipari, a former KU grad assistant for Owens and part-time KU assistant for Larry Brown, spoke of his KU days.

“I went to Kansas to work camp. The coach was Ted Owens. He said, ‘I want you to stay on my staff.’ I said, ‘Really?’ As a volunteer. (I said) how much does that pay?’’’ Calipari said to laughter. “I had an unbelievable time and learned from a great gentleman,” Calipari added Owens.

“Then my great friend and mentor, Larry Brown, rolls in, hires me as part-time assistant. He gave me the best advice. He said, ‘If you care about the kids and their success you’ll always have a job.’ You are right, coach,” Calipari said, looking at Brown.

Of Brown, he added: “(He is) one of the great coaches not only this era but any era who has been there with me and been my protector throughout my career.”


David Serven 6 years, 9 months ago

Congratulations Jo Jo! I was lucky enough to see you play in Allen Fieldhouse with Roger Bonensteil(sp) and Vernon Vanoy back in the sixties. He had such a smooth shot and played his heart out. We knew then he was something special.

Mike Riches 6 years, 9 months ago

Congratulations Jo Jo! A very well-deserved honor!

On a sidenote, if you haven't been to the Basketball HOF, it's definitely worth it. Such a cool place! Maybe take the trip next year when Coach Self is inducted. :)

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 9 months ago

Hopefully the complete HOF ceremony will be available on youtube someday soon.

It was really cool of Bill Self to conveniently schedule a recruiting trip for the HOF ceremonies. By scheduling that trip, he allowed Ted Owens to assume more of a center stage position. One of the countless unseen human kindness things Self does.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 9 months ago

You are absolutely right David. I was at KU from 1966-1970, right after the sneaker controversy against Texas Western. I never missed a home game in my four years there, and they were probably the greatest times I had.

Like you, I distinctly remember Roger Bohnenstiel (what a turnaround jump shooter) and Vernon Vanoy (both in basketball and football), not to mention all the other stars. I'll never forget how Jo Jo would come out for player introductions before the game and look like he was dead tired. However, it was all just an act because when the whistle blew, he was non-stop energy for nearly 40 minutes every game.

One of my fondest memories was of a game against Colorado when their spunky little guard, Gordon "somebody", I forget, undercut Jo Jo who was going in for a layup. The first thought was that Jo Jo might have been injured. However, when Vernon Vanoy went over and picked the CU guard up off the floor by his jersey, Jo Jo jumped up and told Vernon to calm down. At that moment, all I could think of was the "Kill Vernon, Kill" chants that often arose from the student section when Vernon made an especially strong play.

Thanks Jo Jo for bringing these memories back to life, even if they might have gotten a little embellished over the years. You will always be the greatest guard in KU history to me.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 9 months ago

Perfect opportunity to bring back names from the past. Thanks.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 9 months ago

Linking Coach Cal with beloved KU greats delivers a surprising result.

John Randall 6 years, 9 months ago

The career of the Calliope is one of hundreds with a strong tie to KU basketball. His dedication to winning, as well as the two vacated FFs and the two NCs are almost as iconic as my memory of Mario's Miracle. What a gift we all have from Dr. Naismith!

Remember, if the referee had seen the daylight under Jo Jo's heel, the drama of Haskins vs. Rupp couldn't have happened.

Rodney Crain 6 years, 9 months ago

Very Glad that Jo Jo was there to take part in this long overdue honor.

Congrats Mr. White on an honor that does justice to your great career and your example on how to play the game!

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