Joe B. Hall, who won national college basketball titles at Kentucky as player and coach, dies at 93

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 the age of 93.

Hall is one of only three men to play for and coach an NCAA championship team (1949, 1978) and is 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. tweeted. “Our hearts go out to the Hall family. We love you Joe B.”

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 with Hall on Thursday.

“He understood everything that was said, and while I was praying for him, he squeezed my hand tightly”, Calipari wrote.

During his 13 years as Kentucky coach, from 1972 to 1985, Hall led the team to 297 wins. The 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 over 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 in St. Louis on 41 points from Jack “Goose” Givens. It was Kentucky’s fifth championship and first in 20 years. More than 10,000 fans greeted the returning team at Blue Grass Airport.

Hall had trained at Central Missouri State and Regis before Rupp offered him the opportunity to come to Kentucky. Rupp first offered Hall a job as his recruiter, 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 on-court assistant coaching position. This time, Hall accepted.

“Coming back here as an assistant was a dream,” Hall had said.

Only once more did Hall come close to leaving Kentucky. Rupp’s retirement was approaching, and Hall wasn’t getting the support he wanted to be the next head coach. He took a head coaching job in Saint Louis, but Rupp begged him to stay, Hall once told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Hall had toyed with Rupp and served as his assistant for seven years before being promoted to the top job, though Rupp continued to play a major role by maintaining an office in the building and his own state television show.

The near misses in the years after the 1978 title upset the fan base: letting Georgetown slip a sizable lead in a 1984 national semi-final was a big one, as was Denny Crum’s increasing share of regional and national attention. in Louisville and Bob Knight in Indiana.

Hall, then 56, resigned as Kentucky coach in March 1985, saying, “I didn’t want to be an old 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 he was 373-156 in his career. Seven of his players earned All-American honors 11 times, and he coached 24 players who were drafted into the NBA, including five first-round picks.

After retiring as a coach, Hall remained a beloved figure in the state. As recently as 2018, he attended about three Kentucky practices a week and was a fixture on the court during home games at Rupp Arena. A statue of Hall stands in front of Wildcat Lodge, where the men’s basketball players live.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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