The discouraging news is the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens fell short of making it into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The encouraging news is the program's supporters are as committed as ever to get the job done in the future.
The Flying Queens – a dominant force in women's basketball for many years and still the winningest collegiate basketball program, men or women, in the country – came up short of acceptance into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after being named a finalist for the third year in a row.
The class was announced Saturday morning on ESPN2 as part of festivities surrounding the NCAA Men's Final Four in San Antonio.
"It is with a heavy heart that I have to accept that the Wayland Flying Queens will not be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018," Linda Pickens Price, a former Flying Queens player and president of the Flying Queens Foundation, said in a written statement. "Losing in the final seconds is always disappointing, but losing – period – has never come easy for me or any other Flying Queen.
"However, it is with firm resolve that I say that while we've been outscored in a quarter, we have not lost the game. In this year's quest to gain induction to Naismith we've learned a lot about how to play the game better. One only looks to the past to learn from your mistakes and build on your successes. Our team has already begun that process and is designing our future winning strategy. To paraphrase a famous coach using somewhat less colorful language than he, 'This year we've knocked at the door; next year we're going to knock the door down!'"
Earning their places in the 13-member Hall of Fame for 2018 were: two-time NBA Champion Ray Allen, two-time NCAA champion Grant Hill, 10-time NBA All-Star Jason Kidd, two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, three-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Smith, four-time WNBA Champion Tina Thompson, four-time NBA All-Star Maurice Cheeks, the only coach in NCAA history to be named Conference Coach of the Year in four different conferences Charles "Lefty" Driesell, two-time EuroLeague champion Dino Radja, the first African-American scholarship athlete at North Carolina Charles Scott, black woman's basketball pioneer Ora Mae Washington, president & chief operations officer of the Golden State Warriors Rick Welts, and former executive, coach and player Rod Thorn.
The Class of 2018 will be enshrined during festivities in Springfield, Mass., the birthplace of basketball, Sept. 8 and 9, 2018.
Price congratulated all of the new Hall of Fame members.
"I admire and congratulate all the inductees. They all are worthy of the honor. I am just so regretful that Wayland did not get the recognition since they have deserved it for so many years and so many people have worked so hard to get Naismith to make note of this unparalleled history.
"A good Queen never abdicates! Therefore, the Hutcherson Flying Queen Foundation is committed to continuing to educate America and specifically Naismith voters on the significance of the Wayland Flying Queens program to the history and development of women's basketball."
A finalist needed 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election. Besides the Flying Queens, other finalists who came up short were: 28-year NBA referee Hugh Evans, two-time NCAA National Championship Coach of Baylor Kim Mulkey, two-time NBA Champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich, and five-time NBA All-Star Chris Webber.
Besides being named a finalist for the third straight year, the Flying Queens were recognized last month by the Hall of Fame when former coach Harley Redin was given the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the most prestigious award presented by the Hall of Fame outside of enshrinement.
Named in honor of Hall of Famer John W. Bunn, the first chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame Committee who served from 1949-1964, the award honors coaches, players and contributors whose outstanding accomplishments have impacted the high school, college, professional and/or the international game.
Redin will be honored during September's Enshrinement Weekend in Springfield, Mass. For more information, visit www.hoophall.com.
Induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame would seem to be the final step to immortalize the Flying Queens, who were groundbreakers in women's collegiate basketball.
Besides their 10 AAU national titles, their 1,600-plus wins being the most of any women's collegiate basketball program, and their 131-game winning streak being the longest of any collegiate program (men or women) in the country, the program's unmatched history includes several other worthy accomplishments.
Wayland was the first school in the nation to offer full basketball scholarships to women, decades ahead of Title IX and most other colleges. Through the years, the Flying Queens have produced more than 200 all-American players and countless players, coaches and administrators who positively affected the history of basketball nationwide.
The Flying Queens' family includes two individuals who have previously been recognized by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Marsha Sharp, a former Queens' assistant coach and longtime head coach of the Texas Tech Lady Raiders, was inducted in 2003. And, former Flying Queens player and longtime college official, Kaye Garms, received the Naismith 2014 Honoree for Women's Collegiate Official of the Year Award.
Eight individuals with ties to the Flying Queens have been inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame (WBHOF) in Knoxville, Tenn. The WBHOF also inducted the 1953-1958 Queens as Trailblazers of the Game.
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