From the Editor: This is the fifth in a series of short essays from A Sea of Blue member oldcat'69, who played as a walk-on on Kentucky's freshman team in 1965-66 during the Adolph Rupp era.
“Once you’ve played ball at Kentucky, it’s either your primary or secondary home.”
-- Joe B. Hall
“. . . the best recruiter ever at Kentucky, without a doubt.” (paraphrased)
Hall simply beat other teams up with physical play and the officials let him get away with it. Hall’s philosophy was to have all five players foul at once since the officials could only call one foul at a time (paraphrased)
-- Sonny Smith, Former Auburn Coach
In my opinion, the quotes above are all right on the money, although I fail to see how a man who coached Charles Barkley in college can comment on anyone else’s physical play. Looking at it a different way, if you have a team of Clydesdales, are you going to run them in the Derby or hook them up to a plow?
In truth, the freshman team of ’65-66 saw less of Coach Hall than we did Coach Lancaster. Hall was frequently out recruiting or scouting, but when he was in town, he was involved with our practices. On at least two road trips, to Paducah Junior College and Dayton, he was the only coach who traveled with us. The varsity had games at other places those particular nights.
Coach Hall was on the almost the exact same book as Coach Hall and Coach Rupp. His coaching patterns were very similar, as far as I could see. The substitution pattern, however, was a bit different. Even later, when he was the head coach, Joe Hall would not say a word to a player coming out of the game. He was of the “one mistake and you’re out” school, and he would let the offending player go sit on the bench without a word of correction.
While it probably wasn’t true of us walk-ons, any scholarship varsity player at Kentucky probably has enough potential to be taught something when he’s made a mistake, especially if the coach strikes while the iron is hot. Of course, I’m talking about real instruction, not yelling and screaming, although that has its place, too. Mark that paragraph down as “opinion”, counselor.
Nevertheless, Coach Hall had a sincerity that made you believe he actually might care something about you, even if you were a walk-on. I think that is what made him such a good recruiter. I certainly never saw him on a recruiting visit, but he had the touch to get great players, both for Coach Rupp and for himself. Now, Coach Rupp might have thought that anyone could recruit a player to play for the Wildcats, but it wasn’t so. As a recruiter, no one was better than Joe B. Hall.
On our trip to Dayton, Coach Hall put me into the game several minutes into the first half. On about the second trip down the floor, I was open from just outside the left elbow and took about a 17 foot shot. It was one of those that rattled around forever, then came out. Now, Coach Lancaster had never told me anything when he put me in other than, “If you get a shot, take it.”
Coach Hall must have missed that conversation, however, because at the next time out, he kinda got into my face and said, “’Oldcat’, didn’t Coach Lancaster tell you to make a few trips up and down the floor to get into the flow before you take a shot?” I didn’t answer at the time, but I always wanted to send him a letter in his retirement in Cynthiana and tell him my version of the story.
Coach Hall probably suffered in the eyes of the faithful because he had neither the witty sarcasm of Adolph Rupp nor the flamboyance of Rick Pitino. Certainly, he was no sparkling personality. His flat presentations in interviews with the media produced few one-liners for an industry eager for sound-bites.
But what kind of coach was Joe B. Hall? What does the record say? Thirteen years as head coach, one national championship, three Final Fours, one national Coach of the Year, four times SEC Coach of the Year, eight SEC titles, seven players named All-American a total of 11 times, nine players all-SEC totaling 18 selections, 23 players drafted into the NBA, five in the first round, and a winning percentage of .748.
Not bad for a guy who many Wildcat fans consider a lesser light in the constellation. Ask yourself this: How many other guys who have followed the basketball coaching legends have even approached this record?