Joe B. Hall, who succeeded legendary coach Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and led the Wildcats to an NCAA men’s basketball championship, has died at age 93.
Hall was one of only three men to play and coach an NCAA championship team (1949, 1978) and was the only one to do so for the same school.
“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of the great Joe B. Hall,” the Kentucky men’s basketball team said. tweeted. “Our hearts are with the Hall family. We love you, Joe B.”
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of the great Joe B. Hall. Our hearts are with the Hall family.
We love you, Joe B. pic.twitter.com/SahjbGOexb
— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 15, 2022
Current Wildcats coach John Calipari tweeted that Hall was “my friend, my mentor, and an icon in our state and in our profession”. He added that he met Hall on Thursday.
“He understood everything that was said, and while I was praying for him he shook my hand,” Calipari said. wrote.
Everyone loves Coach Hall. What makes me happy on this extremely dark day is that before he left this earth he knew how much we all appreciate and love him. I would ask everyone to keep him and his family in your prayers. I love you, coach. pic.twitter.com/hm7apfFQBU
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 15, 2022
During his 13 years as Kentucky coach, from 1972 to 1985, Hall led the team to 297 wins. Most memorable was the 1978 NCAA title in which Hall led the Wildcats to their fifth championship. Hall followed in the colossal footsteps of Rupp, who won 876 games in 41 seasons at Kentucky.
The Wildcats went 30-2 in 1977-78 and won their first NCAA title in 20 years, beating Duke 94-88 at St. Louis behind 41 points from Jack “Goose” Givens. It was Kentucky’s fifth championship and first in 20 years. Over 10,000 fans greeted the returning team at Blue Grass Airport.
Hall had coached at Central Missouri State and Regis before Rupp offered him a chance to come to Kentucky. Rupp initially offered Hall a job as a scout, but Hall turned it down, wanting to be a floor coach instead.
Later, when they were in the same clinic. Rupp invited Hall to his room and offered him an assistant coaching job on the pitch. This time, Hall agreed.
“Coming back here as an assistant was a dream,” Hall said.
Only once more did Hall come close to leaving Kentucky. Rupp’s retirement was approaching and Hall was not getting the support he wanted to be the next head coach. He took a head coaching job at St. Louis, but Rupp begged him to stay, Hall once told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Hall had played under Rupp and served as his assistant for seven years before being elevated to the top tier – although Rupp continued to be prominent by maintaining an office in the building and his own television show in the state.
Near misses in the years after the 1978 title bothered the fan base – blowing a sizable lead over Georgetown in a 1984 national semi-final was a big deal – as was the growing share of regional spotlight and nationals obtained by Denny Crum in Louisville and Bob Knight in Indiana.
Hall, then 56, resigned as Kentucky coach in March 1985, saying, “I didn’t want to be a former coach.”
Hall was named National Coach of the Year in 1978 and SEC Coach of the Year four times. Hall’s record at Kentucky was 297-100, and it was 373-156 during his career. Seven of his players have won 11 All-American honors and he has coached 24 players who have been drafted into the NBA, including five first-round selections.
After retiring from coaching, Hall remained a beloved figure in the state. As recently as 2018, he attended about three Kentucky practices a week and was on the field at home games at Rupp Arena. A statue of Hall stands in front of the Wildcat Lodge, where the male basketball players live.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.