Joe B. Hall, Legendary Kentucky basketball coach is dead

Kentucky basketball coaching legend Joe B. Hall has died, the school announced Saturday.


He was 93.

Hall replaced Adolph Rupp as coach in Lexington in 1972 and guided the Wildcats until 1985, compiling a 297-100 record with 10 NCAA tournament appearances, three Final Fours and a national title in 1978. Hall remained a fixture in Lexington until his death.

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He also played for Rupp on the Wildcats’ 1949 team that won the national title, making Hall one of three men who played and coached on an NCAA championship team. Dean Smith and Bobby Knight are the others. Hall is the only one to do it at the same school.

Joe B. Hall, Legendary Kentucky basketball coach is dead

Hall, who served as his assistant for seven years under Rupp before taking over as head coach, also coached at Regis College in Denver and Central Missouri State. Hall had a 373-156 career coaching record.


Kentucky coach John Calipari praised Hall on Saturday for carrying on “the winning tradition and legacy of excellence of Kentucky basketball.”

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During his 13 years as Kentucky coach, from 1972 to 1985, Hall led the team to 297 victories. 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 behind 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 coached at Central Missouri State and Regis before Rupp offered him a chance to come to Kentucky. Rupp first offered Hall a job as his recruiter, but Hall turned it down, instead wanting to be a floor coach.

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Later, when they were at the same clinic. Rupp invited Hall to his room and offered him an on-the-floor assistant coaching job. This time, Hall accepted.


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


Only one more time did Hall almost leave 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 at Saint 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 role — though Rupp continued to loom large by maintaining an office in the building and his own TV show in the state.

Near misses in the years after the 1978 title bothered the fan base — blowing a sizable lead to Georgetown in a 1984 national semifinal was a big one — as did the growing share of the regional and national spotlight achieved by Denny Crum at Louisville and Bob Knight at Indiana.

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The then-56-year-old Hall 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 over 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 selections.


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

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