PAGE 9 THE CATS' PAUSE, DECEMBER 2k, 1977
The one incident a reporter never forgets is his first contact with an honest-to-goodness personality . . . someone whose name has graced news pages from Bangor to Bakersfield.
One young reporter had an incident indelibly etched into his memory in September, 1966, shortly after he became a sports writer on the University of Kentucky's campus daily, The Kernel.
It's standard practice for a new reporter to meet his potential sources, and that is what took the reporter into the Memorial Coliseum athletic offices that winter afternoon.
Ken Kuhn, then sports information director, was first on the list since he had been a fixture in the UK athletics department for several centeries, and he was the man who could help an unsure freshman meet the people he would be writing about.
It was not the youngster's intention to start at the top. The strategy was that a talk with the tennis coach or swimming coach would supply the feel of walking through those doors. With familiarity comes confidence, and perhaps a few interview with the less prominent individuals on the UK coaching scene would provide the boost needed when the bigger names had to be interviewed.
No such luckl
AfteT only two or three minutes of chatting with Kuhn, in through the door ambled the man whose very name evoked reverence from UK basketball fans, and often quite a different reaction from others.
The first sight of Adolph Frederick Rupp wasn't the memorable aspect of the meeting; it was what followed.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"Shelby County," the reporter answered proudly, since his high school had won the Kentucky State High School Basketball Championship a few months before and had sent its two stars, Mike Casey and Bill Busey, to UK to play for Rupp.
Then the coach dropped the napalm: "Well, I don't want you to write a word on Casey or Busey. The've got enough to worry about."
Naked" is too kind a word for the feeling that stripped the feldgling pencil-pusher of his thoughts and turned his tongue to cherry jello.
What does one in that position say to a man whose words had melted the pens of the nation's best sports reporters, and who once told a group of writers, "Why, I make more money on my radio show than any of you do in a year"?
After all, what did Moses say when he got the Ten Commandments?
By JIM MILLER
The Baron's Farewell
Probably the same thing the young reporter said: "Uh, yessir."
Then Rupp sensed the uneasiness and must have realized his victory was over a defenseless foe. He looked up from the statistics chart he was reading, his eyes smiled, and his mouth followed.
"Oh, hell, you can write anything you want. I'm not going to stop you."
The years pass, students graduate and reporters, like ministers, get the call to go elsewhere. But after a 600-mile move, one finds that WHAS Radio is his only link to the times of the past.
For displaced Kentuckians, their thank-you prayers have always included the names of Claude Sullivan. Cawood Ledford, Jack Koch and Ralph Hacker, who over the years have sent the UK story to listeners in more than 40 states. And the final chapter of that story during each broadcast is the post-game show with the coach.
It was the show that gave thousands of listeners a first-person view of Rupp, and allowed him to display the curmudgeonly wit that stoked his legend as Baron of the Bluegrass. If the court was Rupp's battleground, then the post-game show was indeed where he divided the spoils.
No one escaped his diatribes, not even his players. Once, the family of a little-used player tried to pressure Rupp into more playing time for their son.
"These players' mommas and daddies come up to me and say, 'Coach, don't you think little Johnny should be playingh more?' Well, my mother back on our farm in Kansas had a word for people like that. She called them 'Weisenheimers.' Old Uncle Adolph has been around a while and I think I know something about this game."
A few years ago, Cawood Ledford, the veteran voice of the Wildcats, was asked to relate his favorite story regarding an interview with Rupp.
"On that show, he was telling me about the different gyms he had taken his teams into. He talked about playing in a roller rink and a converted barracks and then he mentioned an L-shaped gym. I stopped a minute and asked 'an L-shaped gym?' He talked about playing at Vanderbilt in a gym where he couldn't even see around the 'L' to the other basket. Then he said, 'But when I saw my boys coming around the corner, I knew everything would be all right.'
And the radio fans, most of whom would never see a game in Memorial Coliseum, loved itl