Joe B. Hall, who succeeded legendary coach Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky and led the Wildcats to an NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1978, died Saturday. He was 93.
Hall’s death was announced by current Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari on his Facebook page, who called Hall “my friend, my mentor and an icon in our state and in our profession.”
“Coach Hall took over a program and carried on the winning tradition and legacy of excellence of Kentucky basketball,” Calipari wrote. “He made it the job it is today with his hard work, his ingenuity and his great basketball coaching.”
Hall remains the only native Kentuckian to coach the Wildcats since Basil Hayden in 1926-27, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. He was a reserve on Rupp’s 1948-49 squad and served as an assistant to the “Baron of the Bluegrass” from 1965 until he was hired as head coach in 1972.
Hall is one of only three men to both play on and coach an NCAA championship team (1949, 1978) and is the only one to do so for the same school, ESPN reported.
“It is with great sadness we share the passing of the great Joe B. Hall,” the Kentucky men’s basketball team tweeted. “Our hearts are with the Hall family. We love you, Joe B.”
“It was not just another coaching job to him,” Hall’s son-in-law, Mike Summers, told the Herald-Leader. “It was the coaching job.”
Joe Beasman Hall was born on Nov. 30, 1928. He grew up in Cynthiana, the newspaper reported.
In addition to leading the Wildcats to the national title in 1978, Hall led Kentucky to a Final Four appearance in 1984, WLKY-TV reported.
Hall helped to secure the building of the Wildcat Coal Lodge, a special space dedicated specifically to Kentucky’s men’s basketball team, the television station reported. A statue of Hall was dedicated outside of the lodge in 2012.
Hall was called the “defender of the program,” but his biggest critic might have been Rupp, who was forced into retirement.
“I just don’t think he ever wanted anybody to really succeed him …” Lexington businessman Jim Host told the Herald-Leader about Rupp. “Joe really connected with the followers and the fans, yet Coach Rupp was never ready to turn it over to him. He saw him as a competitor.”
During his 13 years as Kentucky coach, from 1972 to 1985, Hall led the Wildcats to a 297-100 record, ESPN reported. The Wildcats went 30-2 in 1977-78 and won their first NCAA title in 20 years, beating Duke 94-88 in St. Louis. It was Kentucky’s fifth championship and first in 20 years.
Hall was 56 when he resigned as Kentucky’s coach in March 1985, saying, “I didn’t want to be an old coach.”
Hall was named National Coach of the Year in 1978 and Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year four times, ESPN reported. Seven of his players earned All-American honors 11 times, and he coached 24 players who were drafted into the NBA, including five first-round selections.
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