KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Yolanda Griffith savored a crowning achievement that she’d never anticipated.
“Never ever in my wildest dreams did I see my journey leading me to the doorsteps of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame,” the two-time Olympic gold medal winner said Saturday during an emotional induction speech. “I am honored and truly excited to be here.”
Griffith was part of a Hall of Fame induction class that also included Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn, former Iowa star Michelle Edwards, broadcaster Mimi Griffin, former Maryland player Jasmina Perazic and former Southern Illinois women’s athletic director Charlotte West. The ceremony also featured a salute to the 1976 U.S. Olympic team as “trailblazers of the game.”
Griffith won gold medals with the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic teams and also helped the Sacramento Monarchs win the 2005 WNBA championship. She was the most valuable player of the 2005 WNBA Finals.
“I owe a lot to the game of basketball,” Griffith said. “It helped me in so many ways. As a young girl, I struggled with my height, I was teased about it. But basketball gave me my confidence. When I lost my mother at the age of 15, basketball became everything, my escape, my therapy.”
All three players inducted Saturday remain involved in the game as college coaches. Perazic is preparing for her first season as head coach of Division II program Georgian Court in Lakewood, New Jersey. Griffith is an assistant at Lafayette and Edwards is director of basketball operations at Rutgers.
Perazic played on three Atlantic Coast Conference championship teams and helped Maryland get to a regional final or beyond each of her four years. Perazic, who is from Serbia, ended her induction speech by delivering a message to Serbian basketball players in their native language.
Edwards played five seasons in the WNBA and nine seasons in Europe after helping Iowa win two Big Ten championships.
They’d love to approach the coaching success enjoyed by the 67-year-old Dunn, who is retiring at the end of this WNBA season.
Dunn went 447-257 in a 25-year college head coaching career that included stops at Austin Peay, Mississippi, Miami and Purdue. She owns a pro record of 202-182 with the ABL’s Portland Power (1996-98) and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (2000-02) and Fever (2008-present). She led Indiana to the 2012 WNBA title.
During her induction speech, Dunn quoted from the Helen Reddy song “I Am Woman,” which played as she finished her presentation. Dunn cited Billie Jean King’s 1973 tennis victory over Bobby Riggs as an inspiration.
“What an empowering moment for women, not just women in sport, but all women,” Dunn said. “Yes, I am woman. Hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore. No one’s ever going to keep us down again.”
Dunn vowed to remain active in basketball even after retiring from coaching, though she also plans to devote energy to progressive causes such as equal pay for equal work, gay rights, domestic violence prevention and anti-bullying campaigns. Dunn also said she would do everything in her power to get a woman into the White House.
“I’m going to be mentoring and consulting college coaches, and I know I won’t be bored, (but) I have other projects and causes that I’m truly passionate about,” Dunn said.
Griffin was ESPN’s primary women’s basketball analyst from 1983-99 and was the first woman to work as a color analyst for an NCAA men’s tournament game. West, recognized as a Title IX pioneer, worked as the Southern Illinois women’s athletic director from 1960-86.
The 1976 U.S. Olympic team won the silver medal with a roster that included Nancy Lieberman, Pat Summitt and Ann Meyers Drysdale. Summitt was at the induction ceremony Saturday, which coincided with her 62nd birthday.
“That we can come back together 40 years later, and that bond is still there, I think that speaks volumes for what this kind of experience does for you,” said Billie Moore, the coach of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team.