The UK Wildcats faced a season of transition going into 1971-72 season. Adolph Rupp would turn 70 in 1972 and face mandatory retirement. Who would replace him? Joe Hall was the frontrunner but nothing was for certain. Some of Rupp's UK players lobbied hard for the rule to be waived for Rupp to stay on as UK coach.
1970-71 was a pretty good year. Cats were 22-6 and SEC champs. Mike Casey, Tom Payne, Larry Steele, and Jim Dinwiddie were all drafted by NBA teams. Terry Mills also completed his eligibility at UK.
But there were promising players returning. Jim Andrews was a ready replacement for Payne. Tom Parker returned for what would be an SEC POY season for him. Stan Key was back at guard along with Kent Hollenbeck (who would suffer an injury a few games into the season). Redshirts Bob McCowan and Dan Perry added to the depth of UK veterans.
Promising frosh up from the 70-71 Kittens included Ronnie Lyons, Rick Drewitz, and Ray Edelman. The 71 recruits were on campus as the 1971-72 frosh team known as the Super Kittens, who went 22-0 that season. UK football players Darryl Bishop and Elmore Stephens joined the team as walk-ons in midseason to add depth to the team.
All-in-all, the 72 Cats were pretty decent. They finished 21-7 as SEC champions and defeated # 7 Marquette in the NCAA before dropping an Elite 8 contest against # 10 Florida State. The Wildcats finished as # 18 ranked team in the nation.
The spring of 1972 would bring about the forced retirement of Adolph Rupp and promotion of Joe Hall to head coach. Recruiting in 1972 would forever change the landscape of Div I hoops because freshmen would be eligible to play varsity basketball in 1972-73 season.
The Rupp Era at UK ended reasonably well (5 straight SEC titles) but nowhere near the Glory Years of the 1940's and 1950's. It would be up to Joe Hall to fully integrate the UK basketball program before the Cats returned to FF in 1975 and won NCAA again in 1978.