Harvard affiliates have been named to a wide variety of Hall of Fames throughout the world over the years. But one Hall not often frequented by those associated with the university is the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Sanders coached Harvard for four seasons, from 1973-77. The team went a combined 40-60 during his tenure, finishing 27-29 in Ivy play.
A former New York University basketball standout, Sanders was the eighth pick in the 1960 NBA draft and played 13 years in the league, all for the Boston Celtics. During that period, he was part of eight championship teams from 1961-66, 1968, and 1969. Only teammates Bill Russell and Sam Jones ever won more titles during their playing careers. For Sanders’ contributions, his No. 16 is among those jerseys retired at TD Banknorth Garden.
“Satch made my life easier, because he got all the tough guys to defend,” Heinsohn told ESPN. “So he took a load off of me. But he was perfectly capable of scoring 20 points a game, also. He was a very good offensive player.”
The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 9.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game during his career, but it wasn’t his numbers that his former teammates most respected.
“In the course of things, people try and quantify whether a guy should be in the Hall of Fame because of his stats,” Heinsohn said. “Stats mean nothing, and I think right now, this is proof that he was a winner.”
Upon his retirement from the NBA in 1973, Sanders took the Harvard coaching job. After leading the Crimson, Sanders returned to the Celtics as head coach, finishing with a 23-39 career record. In the years since, he has served as the NBA’s Vice President and Director of Player Programs.
“He’s such a good guy,” Celtics star Ray Allen told ESPN. “He’s very humble.”
The Celtics great joins a 2011 Hall class that includes former NBA stars Dennis Rodman and Chris Mullin, among seven others. He becomes the second member of the Basketball Hall of Fame to have Crimson ties, along with former Harvard coach Edward Wachter, who was enshrined in 1961 after coaching the team from 1920-33.
"Satch will fit right in with Harvard's tradition of excellence,” said former professor James M. Jones upon Sanders’ hiring in 1973. “He has the ability to bring basketball up to par with Harvard's academic excellence. And it's about time."
With his election the hall, Sanders has met the highest standards of excellence once again.