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Odell Walks Into the Hall

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March 15, 2011
Gary Pine

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former Azusa Pacific men’s basketball coach Bill Odell along with NBA and college basketball greats Terry Porter and Travis Grant were inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame tonight during ceremonies at the Kansas City Convention Center.

Odell, who turned around the fortunes of Azusa Pacific basketball during his 16 years at the Cougar helm, was presented for induction by his former player and current Cougar head coach Justin Leslie before an estimated crowd of more than 700 people in the Grand Ballroom.

“This isn’t about my legacy,” said Odell, “but rather about the good people I have been blessed to coach and teach. It was my hope to instill a confidence into their life that transcended basketball, something that would permeate all of their life.”

Odell came to Azusa Pacific in the summer of 1991 after a highly successful 23-year coaching career on the high school level in Southern California. He engineered an impressive transformation of Cougar basketball in which Azusa Pacific, which had never won a conference championship and qualified for the NAIA Tournament just once, captured 13 Golden State Athletic Conference crowns, including an unprecedented 9 in a row, garnered 14 NAIA Tournament berths and posted 15 straight 20-win campaigns during his tenure.

By the time Odell retired in 2006, he was college basketball’s winningest coach over a 15-year period (1992-2006). In 2005 he was named the NAIA Coach of the Year after leading Azusa Pacific to its first-ever NAIA championship game appearance.

“This induction goes beyond victories, conference championships and NAIA Tournament appearances,” added Leslie. “It’s more than unprecedented streaks and numbers. It’s about a man and his impact on people, a school and a conference.”

Odell is enshrined with what is arguably the finest Hall of Fame class in NAIA history. Along with Odell, Porter and Grant, NBA great and former Central Arkansas University standout Scottie Pippen was inducted. Pippen was unable to attend tonight’s ceremonies.

Porter was a 3-year starter and 2-time NAIA All-American at Wisconsin-Stevens Point during the mid-1980s. He went on to enjoy a 17-year NBA career, primarily with the Portland Trailblazers, where he was a 2-time all-star.

Grant established himself as college basketball’s all-time leading scorer during an amazing career at Kentucky State University in which he led the Thoroughbreds to 3 consecutive NAIA championships in the early 1970s. Today, he still owns numerous NAIA Tournament scoring records. He played several years in the NBA and ABA before embarking on a 30-year teaching career.

“It’s humbling and an honor to be inducted alongside these men,” said Odell, who becomes the 12th Cougar to be enshrined into the NAIA Hall of Fame and second from the Azusa Pacific basketball family, joining longtime coach Cliff Hamlow who was inducted in 1980.

Tonight’s ceremonies were part of the “Tip-Off Banquet” that signals the start of the 74th Annual NAIA Men’s Basketball Division I Championship Tournament which opens Wednesday (March 16). The No. 8-seeded Azusa Pacific plays its first-round game against Freed-Hardeman University at 10:45 a.m. (CDT) in famed Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City.