Former Houston Rockets Head Coach Rudy Tomjanovich will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend. He will be enshrined with the late Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, the late Eddie Sutton, Tamika Catchings, Kim Mulkey, and Barbara Stevens. Tomjonavich played for the San Diego-Houston Rockets from 1970-1980, averaging 17.5 points per game with 8.1 rebounds per game. His playing career almost ended one night during a game with the Los Angeles Lakers when he got into an altercation with Kermit Washington of the Lakers when Washington punched Tomjanovich in the face.
Author John Feinstein recalled that night in his book, “The Punch”, which I highly recommend you go read if you want to find out more about Tomjanovich’s background and career. He was an assistant coach with the Rockets from 1983-1992 before being named head coach in 1992. During his coaching tenure with the Rockets, he amassed a coaching record of 503-397 during the regular season and 51-39 during the playoffs, making him the winningest coach in Rockets history. However, his crowning achievement was leading the Houston Rockets to back-to-back NBA Titles in 1994 and 1995 with future Hall of Famers, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
He coached Team USA at the 2000 Sydney Olympics to a Gold Medal, one of only three coaches to do so. He is the only person in NBA history to score 10,000 points as a player and have 500 wins as a coach. He also briefly coached the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004-2005 but resigned citing health concerns. He later returned to the Minnesota Timberwolves as a consultant last year. I consider him the greatest coach in Houston Rockets history and well-deserving of a Hall of Fame Enshrinement!
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Rudy T at a gala in 2017 benefiting the PEP Program. I was honestly in awe when I first saw that Coach Rudy T was there, I couldn’t believe my eyes! I honestly was a little star-struck when I first went up to him, but he immediately made me feel at ease. I asked him for a picture and he obliged and he even gave me his autograph and said to reach out to him via email if I ever needed anything. He didn’t have to take time for me, but he did and that made a lasting impact on me and I’ll never forget that moment. It’s something I’ll treasure forever because of the memories of that back-to-back championship run in 1994 and 95.
The City of Houston totally got behind the Rockets and the team was so exciting to watch! Rudy T got the best out of his players and it led them to the top of the basketball world twice. Who could ever forget his famous postgame speech after clinching the second title?!? “Don’t Ever Underestimate The Heart Of A Champion!” I remember as a kid being glued to the tv set and watching the games intensely with my family and celebrating those championships which made me a fan of the Rockets for life.
Congrats Rudy T, All of Rockets Nation is happy For you!
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