JOE B. HALL
Kentucky Head Coach
Now in his fifth year as head coach of the Wildcats, Joe B. Hall stands tall as keeper of a tradition that began three-quarters of a century ago and has put the Wildcats at the head of the collegiate basketball field in number of games won.
Although he garnered no nationally ranked personal coaching honors last year, it was generally agreed that Hall did perhaps his best coaching job, guiding one of the youngest Wildcat teams in history to the National Invitation Tournament championship.
During his previous three years as Wildcat coach, Hall had received such honors as two-time SEC and two-time Coach & Athlete "Coach of the Year" awards; nominee for Kodak's 1975 "Coach of the Year" award; coach of three consecutive UKIT champions; coach of SEC champion and co-championship teams, and coach of the 1973 Mid-East Finalists and the 1975 NCAA championship finalists Wildcats.
He started last season without four senior starters—Jimmy Conner, Kevin Grevey, Bob Guyette and Mike Flynn—who had led the Wildcats to the National finals. In fact, the only returning starter was Rick Robey, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center who scored over 10 points a game. Robey, who was to be shifted to forward, suffered a knee injury and missed 18 games. The other starters were a senior who played only 51 minutes in 14 games the preceding year, a junior, and either two sophomores and a freshman, or three sophomores.
As inexperience, a tough schedule, Robey's injury and lack of depth took their toll, the Wildcats dropped to 10-10 in late February. Out of the SEC race, they rallied to win all their remaining games, including a victory over conference champion Alabama on national television, before sweeping the NIT.
The secret of the 1976 Wildcats was a teamwork that included every player on the bench. Throughout the stretch run, Hall kept calling on different players in key situations and each responded accordingly. This was true especially in the final regular season game, played in Memorial Coliseum, where subs rallied the Wildcats in a come-from-behind overtime victory over Mississippi State that allowed them to bow out of the Memorial Coliseum' era with a victory.
And throughout the NIT, different players kept stepping to the forefront to take up the slack for the Wildcats, who were in an unaccustomed underdog role. That squad was the epitome of a Hall-coached team: a hustling, rugged defensive, driving offensive unit that refused to buckle under pressure.
With only Warford gone from that team and with Robey hopefully recovered from his injuries, Hall faces the ensuing
season with a little more ammunition than he had a year ago; however, the schedule is difficult and the challenge in the conference is greater than ever.
Such challenges are second nature to a person who stepped into the shoes of the nation's winningest basketball coach (Adolph Rupp) and has kept the Wildcats in the limelight ever since.
Entering this season, Hall's 10-year record stood at 155-92, excluding a 17-2 record on a 1974 tour of Australia, and that record was compiled against nationally ranked non-conference teams and teams in a conference that fast is becoming recognized among the toughest in the nation. Broken down, it shows a 57-50 five-year mark at Regis, a 19-6 record at Central Missouri, and a 79-36 four-year record at Kentucky.
Hall began his tour as UK head coach in rather auspicious fashion, becoming in 1973 the first rookie coach in the SEC to be designated Coach of the Year by his fellow coaches and by Coach and Athlete Magazine.
Gathering such honors has been one of Hall's trademarks during a coaching career that began at Shepherdsville (Ky.) High School in 1956 and continued through Regis College and Central Missouri State College before he returned to TJK July 1, 1965, as an assistant to his former coach, Adolph Rupp.
During Hall's two years at Shepherdsville, the Cougars won a Mid-Kentucky Conference title and he was named "Coach of the Year" in 1958. He then served one year as a freshman coach and five years as head basketball coach at Regis College in Denver, Colo., where he was also athletic director and earned special recognition as coach of the champion independent team in the area.
While in Denver, he also coached the Capital Federal host team in the 1964 AAU tournament and was selected as head coach of the AAU Stripes in the Olympic trials at Jamaica, N. Y.
His next move was to Central Missouri, where he coached the Mules (19-6) to their first MIAA Conference championship since 1951 and their first Christmas Tournament title in history. He was named MIAA "Coach of the Year" (1964-65).
A three-letter winner and team captain in both sports in high school at Cynthiana, Ky., he played freshman basketball and one year of varsity basketball in the "Fabulous Five" era at the University before transferring to the University of the South at Sewanee, Tenn., where he set a school single game scoring record and was team captain. Coach Lon Varnell, upon retirement, rated Hall as No. 1 of the three best players he ever coached.
After touring Europe with the Globetrotters in 1951, Hall returned to U.K. in 1955 to complete requirements for his B.A. and later (1964) received his M.A. at Colorado State University.
Returning to U.K. again in 1965 as assistant coach and head recruiter, he was instrumental in adopting a running-conditioning program which obviously paid huge dividends as the Wildcats capitalized on speed and endurance to offset a lack of size and advance to the championship game of the NCAA Finals. Hall then successfully recruited six prep All-Americans, including all-time U.K. scoring leader Dan Issel, to form the nucleus of a varsity team that won three straight conference championships and was followed by a team that won three more consecutive SEC titles.
Hall became No. 1 varsity assistant and head freshman Coach to Rupp after Harry C. Lancaster was named permanent athletic director Feb. 1, 1969. His record with the freshmen was 60-15, including an undefeated (22-0) season (1971-72) which resulted in the Kittens being crowned National Freshman Champions by the Basketball News.
During his first season as head coach, the Wildcats won their last nine conference games to sew up the SEC title.
He is married to the former Katharine Dennis of Harrison County, Ky. They have three children—Mrs. Rick Derrickson of Lexington; Kathy, 20, and Steve, li6.