News From Terre Haute, Indiana


February 16, 2014

EDITORIAL: Distinction of honor

‘Slick’ Leonard deserves his place in Hall of Fame

TERRE HAUTE — People often describe Bobby “Slick” Leonard as the face of Indiana basketball.

Such descriptions flowed heavily again Friday afternoon, when the announcement came that Leonard had been chosen for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The assessment fits. The Hoosier state became nationally renowned for its basketball passion during the era when Leonard starred for the Terre Haute Gerstmeyer High School Black Cats. He and the Cats won a sectional title under Coach Howard Sharpe in 1950. Leonard then played at Indiana University, leading the Hoosiers to the 1953 NCAA championship. After playing and coaching in the NBA, Leonard returned to his home state to coach the Indiana Pacers in the old, stylish, renegade American Basketball Association.

The ABA teams toiled in relative anonymity. Few people outside the league cities ever saw their games because the league lacked a TV contract. Those who attended, though, saw the real deal, especially from Leonard’s Pacers. He coached them to three ABA championships and 529 victories, and steered the franchise into the establishment NBA after the two leagues merged in 1976. Eventually, Slick began a quarter-century run as the Pacers’ radio color commentator, and colorful he’s been, hollering his trademark “Boom, Baby!” after Indiana’s 3-pointers.

Yes, Leonard and Indiana hoops are synonymous.

Yet, it should be remembered that Leonard is a Terre Haute story, as well. Born and raised here, Leonard grew up in the inner city during the Depression, snuck into the Indiana State Teachers College gym to watch John Wooden’s Sycamores practice, and was mentored by military veterans returning from duty. In an interview last year, Leonard said, “Terre Haute’s still my hometown. I don’t get back as much as I used to. My family has passed away over there. But, I had a lot of fun in Terre Haute. Terre Haute was good to me.”

And he’s been good for Terre Haute. He’ll represent the town in the Hall of Fame, upon his induction this September. The city holds an amazing niche there. Leonard will join former Terre Haute Garfield star Clyde Lovellette in the Naismith shrine, along with Wooden (who coached Indiana State for two memorable seasons) and former ISU and Boston Celtics great Larry Bird. In terms of Terre Haute natives inducted into major sports halls, Leonard joins former Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder Max Carey, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

The Basketball Hall of Fame overlooked ABA players and coaches for too many years, but rectified that neglect by forming a special committee to consider those standouts. That led to the inclusion of former Pacers stars Mel Daniels and Roger Brown earning Hall plaques. Now their coach, the feisty, loud-jacket-wearing “Slick” Leonard, will be forever remembered alongside them. Thank goodness, the 81-year-old Hautean is able to enjoy that long overdue gesture. It is a richly deserved distinction, and his hometown is proud.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix Mother of 2 Makes NFL Cheerleading Squad at 40 Judge OKs Record-setting $2B Sale of Clipper Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. Trial Begins Over OKC Bombing Video Looming Demand Could Undercut Flight Safety Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Suspect Dead, Marshals and Cop Wounded in NYC 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Raw: Airstrike Shatters Fragile Calm in Gaza
NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now!

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010