NEW YORK -- Four members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame have been selected as the 2012 recipients of the Lapchick Character Award.
Cathy Rush, C.M. Newton, Morgan Wootten and the late Pete Newell were announced Monday as the coaches to be honored this year with the award named after the Hall of Fame coach and that is presented by a group that includes Joe Lapchick biographer and former player Gus Alfieri. It recognizes those who have shown the character traits of Lapchick, who coached at St. John's and with the New York Knicks.
The awards will be presented at a luncheon at the New York Athletic Club on Nov. 15, and the honorees will be recognized that night at Madison Square Garden during the 2K Sports Classic, benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project.
Rush is considered the pioneer coach in women's college basketball. Just two years out of school herself, Rush led tiny Immaculata College to the first three national championships conducted by the AIAW (1972-74) and six Final Fours in the organization's first seven seasons. Rush compiled a 149-15 record (91 percent) in seven seasons and her Mighty Macs played in the first nationally televised women's college game (Maryland, 1975) and in the first appearance by a women's team at Madison Square Garden (Queens College, 1975).
Immaculata became one of college sports' most popular stories and its success was chronicled in the movie "Mighty Macs." Rush has stayed active in women's basketball after retiring as a coach, helping establish scholarship money for female student-athletes while still teaching the sport through camps and clinics. A breast cancer survivor, Rush has served as a spokeperson for the American Cancer Society.
Newton has impacted basketball on the collegiate and international levels as a coach and administrator. A graduate of Kentucky, where he was recruited by Adolph Rupp and was a member of the 1952 national championship team, Newton had a record of 500-374 as the coach at Transylvania College, Alabama and Vanderbilt. He was the athletic director at Kentucky as it recovered from NCAA violations, served as chairman of the NCAA men's basketball tournament selection committee and rules committee, and was instrumental in international basketball as an assistant coach to the 1984 U.S. team and later as director of USA Basketball.
His biggest impact can be shown by his actions off the court as he signed the first African-American scholarship athletes to play at Transylvania and Alabama, and while athletic director at Kentucky he hired the school's first African-American head basketball coach, Tubby Smith.
Wootten was the head coach at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md. for 46 years, compiling a 1,274-192 record while winning five national championships. His program produced future NBA players, including Adrian Dantley and Danny Ferry, and became one of the most powerful in the country. In January 1965, DeMatha stopped the 71-game winning streak of New York City's Power Memorial Academy which featured future Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor, in one of the first high school games to draw national attention.
Wootten, who underwent a liver transplant in 1996, still contributes to the sport today through lectures and books and as the chairman of the selection committee of the McDonald's All-America High School game since 1978.
Newell is considered one of the coaching greats. He led California to the national championship in 1959 and back to the title game the next season. He compiled a 119-44 record in a 14-year career that ended at age 44 for what many considered health reasons while others said it was over his disdain for the spotlight. He, Dean Smith and Bob Knight are the only coaches to win NIT and NCAA titles and an Olympic gold medal. Newell's 1960 U.S. team featured Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
After a successful run as general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, Newell's biggest contribution may have been through his big man camps where he stressed fundamentals to hundreds of post players. Newell died in 2008 at age 93.
Previous winners of the award, which was first presented in 2008, are Naismith Hall of Famers Lou Carnesecca, Dean Smith, Pat Summitt, John Thompson, Bob Hurley Sr., Pete Carril, Jody Conradt and the late Kay Yow, as well as Jack Curran, Gene Keady, Jim Phelan and Debbie Ryan.
The award is sponsored by D'Agostino supermarkets.