Niagara Gazette

Columns

March 4, 2012

GLYNN: Falls’ Hank Nichols nominee for Hall of Fame

Column by Don Glynn — Whenever the coffee shop discussion centers on the leading sports figures from the Niagara area over the years, Sal “The Barber” Maglie is always mentioned. Surely, he ranks right near the top.

There are others, of course, who have earned their stripes on the national scene: Benny Bengough, a catcher for the New York Yankees; Johnny Moir, a first-string, three-time All-America basketball player at the University of Notre Dame. (He was cut twice in tryouts for the basketball team at Niagara Falls High School so he transferred to Trott where he starred in the Western New York Vocational League); and Daryl Johnston of Youngstown, who played on three Super Bowl teams with the Dallas Cowboys, to name a few.

One who didn’t play but had a vital role in college basketball for decades is Niagara Falls native Henry (“Hank”) Nichols, a longtime NCAA official.

Nichols attended the former Bishop Duffy High School (Class of ‘54) and graduated from Villanova University where he played on the baseball team.

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, he launched a teaching career, including a stint in the Niagara Falls School District before joining the faculty at Villanova.

Aside from the academics, Nichols took a deep interest in basketball and the rules of the game. During this career, he refereed six national championship games, 10 final fours, three National Invitational Tourney finals and 13 ACC championships. He also officiated two Olympic games and one European championship.

After his officiating career, he became the national coordinator of NCAA officials for more than 20 years. Longtime authorities on basketball in the U.S. say that Nichols has been instrumental in the progression of rule changes at the collegiate level and remains one of the most influential architects of the game’s rules in history.

Today, Nichols is among the 12 finalists considered for election to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

If he’s successful in the balloting — a finalist needs 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee — he’ll be in the Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012 will be inducted during festivities Sept. 7 in Springfield.

Nichols has been nominated twice for the Hall of Fame. “Maybe the third time will be charm,” he said last week.

Among others under consideration this time are: Reggie Miller, who played his entire career with the Indiana Pacers and was one of the greatest clutch players in NBA history; Coach Rick Pitino, the only coach in men’s basketball to lead three different schools to the NCAA Final Four (Providence College, University of Kentucky and University of Louisville). He also was head coach of the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics; and Don Nelson, the all-time winningest coach in the NBA with more than 1,300 victories.

    •••

 TOP OF THE MORNIN’: The Niagara Falls Chapter of the Ancient of Hibernians is completing plans for its St. Patrick Day festivities March 17.

Patrick Kerins, the AOH publicist, said it is Western New York’s largest party in honor of St. Patrick and the Irish heritage.

The party will begin at 5 p.m. at the Conference Center-Niagara Falls, 101 Falls Street, immediately after what is billed as the “World’s Shortest Parade,” at 4:45 p.m.

The parade route extends about 75 steps from Falls Street and Rainbow Boulevard, to the conference center entrance.

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