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Former Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall dies

A Clearwater man who played for Hall recalls “a monster competitor’' who was also a Bobby Bowden-like gentleman.
Joe B. Hall took over for Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp and led Kentucky to the 1978 national title, when he was named coach of the year. Hall died at age 93.
Joe B. Hall took over for Kentucky legend Adolph Rupp and led Kentucky to the 1978 national title, when he was named coach of the year. Hall died at age 93. [ AP ]
Published Jan. 15|Updated Jan. 15

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Joe B. Hall, who succeeded Adolph Rupp and guided Kentucky to a national championship in 1978, died at 93.

The program announced Hall’s death in a social media post Saturday after his family notified current Wildcats coach John Calipari.

Hall and Calipari were close, and Hall was a frequent presence at Kentucky practices and games. The retired coach sometimes provided the “Y” when cheerleaders spelled out the state name during timeouts.

Calipari called Hall “my friend, my mentor and an icon in our state and in our profession.”

Hall, who had a homespun manner and Southern drawl, went 297-100 in 13 years. Born 20 miles north of campus in Cynthiana, the former UK player and longtime assistant to Rupp succeeded his boss in 1972 after Rupp retired.

Led by Kevin Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner and Rick Robey, Kentucky in 1975 reached its first Final Four since 1966. The Wildcats lost the championship game 92-85 to UCLA in John Wooden’s final game.

Three years later, the Wildcats went 30-2 and won their first NCAA title in 20 years, beating Duke 94-88 in St. Louis behind 41 points from Jack “Goose” Givens.

Clearwater lawyer Tim Ingram was a Kentucky walkon from 1978-80 (when now-FSU coach Leonard Hamilton was a graduate assistant in charge of the walkon program).

“Coach Hall always believed in walkons because he was once one himself,’’ Ingram said. “He was a monster competitor on the court, but he was a gentleman. He never swore. He was a lot like Bobby Bowden in that way.’’

Ingram said that when Hall was riled up, he would let loose with a “gosh darn!’’

Hamilton said: “We have all lost an icon in Kentucky basketball history.’’

In 1984 Kentucky lost to Georgetown in the national semifinals. Hall retired a year later at age 57.

“I fell in love with the Kentucky program before I came here as a student and played under Coach Rupp, came back and assisted him,” Hall said in 2017. “I was infused with a spirit that made some players work harder. And I think it made me work harder.”

Hall coached 24 NBA draft picks, including five first-rounders. He was national coach of the year in 1978.

Hall played for Rupp and the Wildcats briefly in the 1940s before transferring to the University of the South. He toured Europe with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1951, returned to UK and graduated in 1955.

He fully integrated a Kentucky program that was seen as some as a symbol of resistance to integration through the 1960s.

When Wooden retired, Hall said jokingly that UCLA should hire him, since he had experience following a legend: “That way, you only ruin one man’s life.’’

Calipari pays tribute in rout of Tennessee

LEXINGTON, Ky.— Just winning would have been fitting enough to honor the passing of a Kentucky coaching great.

The No. 18 Wildcats took that objective a step further, doing it convincingly with near-perfect offense thanks to a defense that created plenty of easy chances.

Freshman TyTy Washington Jr. scored a career-high 28 points, Sahvir Wheeler returned from injury to add 21 points and Kentucky shot a season-high 68 percent to blow out No. 22 Tennessee 107-79 on Saturday. The Wildcats (14-3, 4-1 SEC) rolled the Volunteers on an emotional day that began with news of the death of Hall.

Calipari paid tribute to Hall by gripping a rolled-up program and starting in a 1-3-1 defense against their border rivals. Kentucky then unleashed its most energetic performance this season before a big crowd, an effort helped by the return of point guard Wheeler from a neck injury. The Wildcats made their first five shots and 22 of 28 by halftime, with their 78.6 percent shooting tying a program record set in the first half against Mississippi on Jan. 14, 1981 (11 of 14).

”We wanted to win, and it’s a ranked opponent,” Calipari said. “I told them we got a ways to go but this was a step and look, I thought Tennessee played well offensively. They did some good stuff. But we were so good offensively, passing it, extra plays. They stretched out their defense and we’re a driving, shoot (a) floater kind of team. That’s what we are, and it kind of worked in our favor.”

Especially for Washington, who scored Kentucky’s first basket to jump start a 14-5 lead. He was 10-of-13 from the field (2-of-4 on 3s), topping his previous high of 20 points last matched against Western Kentucky on Dec. 22.

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