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NEW YORK — Val Ackerman, Leonard Hamilton, Speedy Morris and Rick Byrd are this year’s recipients of the Joe Lapchick Character Award.

Ackerman helped found the WNBA and served as the first president. She also has had a successful career as commissioner of the Big East Conference since 2013, leading the rebirth of the conference after the decision of basketball schools to separate from the original conference.

Hamilton is the winningest coach in Florida State basketball history and fifth in Atlantic Coast Conference history. He has 394 victories in his 20 years at the school and 594 overall in his 34-year career that featured stops at Oklahoma State and Miami before he came to the Seminoles in 2002.

Morris guided La Salle from 1986-87 to 2000-01, collecting 238 wins and four NCAA tournament appearances. In the 1989-90 season, his team went 30-2 and finished 12th in the AP poll behind the performances of Lionel Simmons and Doug Overton. Morris was the first Division I coach to coach the men’s and women’s basketball programs at the same school.

Byrd spent 33 years coaching at Belmont from 1986-87 (when it was still in the NAIA) to 2018-19. He won 713 games there and 805 overall. The Bruins went 27-6 in his final season and made the NCAA tournament. Belmont made eight NCAA appearances during Byrd’s tenure.

This is the 14th year the award will be presented to those who have shown the character traits of Lapchick, who coached at St. John’s and with the New York Knicks.

The quartet will be honored at a luncheon Sept. 16 in New York.



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