Here is a bit of Kentucky Basketball History that you may or may not be aware of.
Back in the “older days” of the Southeastern Conference, there were some schools that enjoyed separate living spaces for their teams and athletes. One of the most well known was the “Bear Bryant Hilton” in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama.
While in this era the athletic living spaces are far more common, they were not the norm in 1977 – and the University of Kentucky did not have one for their basketball team.
All of that began to change one night during the mid 1970s, probably 1974, when Kevin Grevey missed curfew. An angry head coach, Joe B Hall promptly went to Kevin’s dorm room, took a seat on Kevin’s bed and waited for Grevey to return. He waited – and waited – and waited some more. Coach Hall stayed the entire night in the dorm room waiting and eventually left the next morning without ever seeing his player return. The report was that Grevey did return only after he knew Coach Hall was gone.
That night proved to be a history-shaping event. It was during that night that Coach Hall got to experience how tough it was for his players to coexist with students in the dorm. While the Cats had a set curfew and some rules about when to be in, the rest of the students they lived with did not have to keep the same rules.
So while the players should have been settling in for the evening, the activity in the dorm was not even close to ending for the day or night. Hall listened as the steady wave of noise came through the walls and doors from the hallway. It was a constant, loud, and distracting mix of sound, music, laughter, and loud voices.
Coach Hall listened for hours to the steady games begin played in the hallways, which usually featured a number of tennis balls ricocheting off the walls and doors of the rooms lining the floor where he was waiting. One of his players, Ronnie Lyons, aware that the coach was there waiting, kept cracking the door open to see if Coach Hall had given up on waiting for Kevin, then he would close the door and come back later to check once again.
In the not so quiet waiting, Coach Hall realized that Friday night parties had to make it impossible for his players to get rest before a Saturday game. And in a practical sense, he could now understand the stories he had heard of how often people would drop by a players’ room to say hi, to introduce a friend or maybe a visitor on campus.
The athletes were celebrities and normal dorm life was not bad. It was normal for college students but sitting there in the room, waiting for his all-star player to return, Coach Hall realized that a place for the Wildcat basketball team to call home would not only be a good thing, but something that had to be built.
By the fall of 1977 the construction began and the Monday after Christmas of that year, the team moved into their new home. The Wildcat Lodge.
Now the team had a place to call home and a place where they could bond and build unity that inevitably would make them better together. There is no place like home, and the construction of the original Wildcat Lodge happened because a player decided not to come “home” one night, and a head coach was inspired to create the team a new one.
Eventually, a newer version of this basketball dorm was created and honored Coach Hall with a statue near the entrance of the Wildcat Coal Lodge.
In life and basketball, if home is a safe place, there really is no place like home. For the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, their home is a good one.
(Additional notes for the curious - the account shared in this story was given in a conversation between Coach Hall himself and one of the boosters who helped fund the construction of the original Wildcat Lodge. As often happens in the sharing of verbal narratives and history through the spoken word, the actual dates become a bit blurred - yet don’t negate the original story. Upon review we did go back and try to reconnect the dates of the events in Coach Hall’s story to make them as accurate as possible. But this is the story that he shared in talking about the inspiration for the player’s dorm. The account is also shared in detail in Coach Hall - My Life on and off the court, by Joe B. Hall and Marianne Walker published by University Press of Kentucky. published 2019. Specifically there is a chapter entitled Wildcat Lodge where Coach Hall gives the same account that he shared with the booster mentioned above. That can be found in Chapter 32 of the book, which is a great read. So what we have included here is the account, as remembered, and retold by Coach Hall himself.)