Kentucky's Adolph Rupp danced a 'jig' with Alex Groza and Dale Barnstable when he won his second straight NCAA title In 1949.
Rupp, of course, is the man who gave his name to Rupp Arena, the 23,000-seat site of this year's Final Four. He coached 41 years at the University of Kentucky, host for the Final Four. One of his greatest players. Cliff Hagan. is director of athletics at Kentucky and is tournament manager. Another of Rupp's players, Scotty Baesler. is mayor of the merged government of Fayette County and Lexington, the host city.
Fittingly. Rupp was one of the founders of the national championship tournament. He and several other members of the Coaches Association started the national championship in 1939 at Northwestern in Evanston,
Rupp enjoyed telling how the sponsorship of the national tournament passed from the coaches to the NCAA.
"I'll tell you how smart we coaches were." he used to say, "we gave the damned thing away to the NCAA — just gave it away for nothing."
Rupp was the spokesman for the Lexington delegation that bid for the 1982 tournament that was awarded to New Orleans. He died before "his" arena landed this year's Final Four, but it isn't hard to imagine him holding court in his family's front-row seats midway between the visitors and home benches at Rupp Arena.
Before John Wooden smashed Rupp's
record to smithereens, the Kentucky coach was the first to win four national championships. Rupp won two in a row in 1948 and 1949 and then won again in 1951 and 1958. UCLA's Wooden captured an astonishing seven in a row from 1967-1973. His 1964 and 1965 teams also won and he retired after winning his 10th title in 1975.
No other coaches except Wooden and Rupp have won more than twice, and the only others to win two consecutive championships were Oklahoma State's Henry "Hank" Iba, San Francisco's Phil Woolpert and Cincinnati's Ed Jucker. Two Indiana coaches. Branch McCracken in 1940 and 1953 and Bob Knight in 1976 and 1981. are the only other multiple winners.
There are other memories in recent championship games:
One remembers Al McGuire crying unashamedly on the bench in Atlanta while the game was still going on as his Marquette Warriors put the finishing touches on their 67-59 national championship victory over North Carolina in 1977. That culminated McGuire's long playing and coaching career that started on the playgrounds of New York City and catapulted him into his present television career.
Dean Smith of North Carolina knows how both sides feel. After his North Carolina team lost to Marquette, the Tar Heels battled to the championship game again in 1981 only to lose to Knight and Indiana 63-50 at Philadelphia's Spectrum. But Smith and the Tar Heels hit the jackpot the next season, edging John Thompson and Georgetown 63-62 in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
Last year, of course, was Thompson's turn. Who can ever forget the big man with the white towel draped across a massive shoulder hugging each of the Hoyas as they came off the floor following their 84-75 victory over Houston? The massive Thompson even picked up Patrick Ewing in jubilation — and Patrick Ewing is a load in any man's league.
And the winning coach with the biggest smile had to be Michigan State's Jud Heath-cote, but his smile didn't compare with that of his star, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, after he and the rest of the Spartans had outdueled Larry Bird's Indiana State team 75-64 at Salt Lake City in 1979.
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