- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—If the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2016 class was a player, it would be a combo guard strong enough to post up beneath the rim.

Or, perhaps a center not afraid to shoot the occasional three.

The six-person class that will be inducted in Knoxville on June 11, 2016, is being celebrated for its versatility.

“You have a different class each year,” said Dana Hart, Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame president, during a teleconference Monday. “This is a very unique class, very diverse.

“We have players and coaches at all levels, and a contributor, which I think really speaks to where the game is now.”

A nine-month selection process to determine the 18th class began with hundreds of nominations. It ended with two coaches, two players, a referee and an administrator.

“Anybody that loves the game can either play, coach or be a contributor to the game and find their path for the hall of fame,” Hart said.

Bill Tipps is a good example. The Tullahoma native served as the chairman of AAU girls basketball from 1979-1991, among other basketball-related duties. The AAU circuit grew leaps and bounds under his watch.

“He would say he was glad to be in on the ground floor, to help get girls opportunities in basketball,” said Gail Tipps of her late husband, who died in 2011. “He grew AAU basketball from eight teams in the first national tournament to hundreds of teams in the national tournament.”

Both coaching inductees are still racking up wins.

Oklahoma’s Sherri Coale has led her team to a 420-206 record in 19 years. She’s been to 16 straight NCAA tournaments, and has three Final Four appearances.

“Marita Hynes (former OU administrator) gave me a shot at college coaching 20 years ago, when probably no one else in America would have, and believed in me and supported me,” Coale said. “Without her, I never have this opportunity. And then Phylesha Waley was my first signee. She just came on blind faith, and turned out to be a fantastic player, a player upon whose shoulders we have built our program.”

Texas high school coaching legend Joe Lombard knows about program-building. He’s got a 1165-109 record through 37 years of coaching girls basketball at Nazareth and Canyon High Schools.

“It’s just a great honor,” said Lombard, who has won 17 state championships. “I felt like there are so many people out there that are more worthy than I am. I’m very humble, and very grateful.”

The two player inductees are now on the coaching side. Former three-time WNBA All-Star Natalie Williams runs a club program in Utah. The first woman to earn All-American honors in basketball and volleyball in the same year thanked those who helped her excel in basketball after she was cut from the 1996 Olympic volleyball team. The UCLA star went on to help USA Basketball win Olympic gold in 2000.

“I knew I had to do some work,” Williams said. “But just to have those mentors and the incredible coaches, that’s what I hope to do some day.”

Jackie Stiles, the first Division I women’s player to score more than 1,000 points in a single season, is back at her alma mater Missouri State as an assistant coach. The 2001 WNBA rookie of the year is still the Division I women’s basketball scoring leader (3,393 points).

“I’m finally now as happy as I was playing,” Stiles said.

While referees are often criticized, June Courteau is celebrated. The NCAA’s national coordinator of women’s basketball officiating has a 45-year track record that includes 13 WNBA finals, 12 Final Fours and five national championship games.

“The first time I refereed the Final Four in ‘85 in Texas was something I had worked for for a long time,” Courteau said. “When I look back at that, that was most memorable for me.”

Each 2016 inductee made his or her own way. Together, they are one well-rounded group.

“Whether it was high school, AAU, officiating, collegiate and coaching, your contributions helped make the game what it is today,” Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame president Sue Donohoe told the inductees Monday.

“But probably more importantly, your contributions, along with so many others, is helping to make the game what it will be tomorrow.”

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(c)2015 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)

Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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