It is with a heavy heart that we pass along the news that Joe B. Hall, the legendary Kentucky Basketball coach that led the program to its fifth national championship, has passed away. He was 93 years old. John Calipari broke the news on social media this morning.
Coach Joe B. Hall – my friend, my mentor, and an icon in our state and in our profession – passed away this morning. Coach Hall took over a program and carried on the winning tradition and legacy of excellence of Kentucky basketball. He made it the job it is today with his hard work, his ingenuity and his great basketball coaching.
Coach Hall always met me with a smile, including two days ago when I went to see him and hold his hand. He understood everything that was said, and as I prayed for him, he squeezed my hand tight.
Coach Hall is beloved by everyone. What makes me happy on this extremely somber day is that before he left this earth, he knew how much all of us appreciated and loved him. I would ask that everyone keep him and his family in your prayers. I love you, Coach.John Calipari
A native of Cynthiana, Joe B. grew up as a Kentucky fan and joined the team in 1948, playing on the junior varsity squad for a season and varsity for another before transferring to Sewanee. After a tour with the Harlem Globetrotters, he returned to Kentucky and graduated in 1955. In 1965, he joined Rupp’s coaching staff as an assistant, and when his old coach retired in 1972, Joe B. was named his successor. He is the only native-born Kentuckian to coach the Wildcats since Basil Hayden (1926-27).
Hall led Kentucky to the 1978 national championship, a runner-up finish in 1975, a Final Four appearance in 1984, and the 1976 NIT Championship. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1978 and SEC Coach of the Year four times (1973, 1975, 1978, 1983). His record at Kentucky was 297–100, and 373–156 overall.
A beloved figure in the Big Blue Nation
When John Calipari took the Kentucky job in 2009, he formed a friendship with Hall. Calipari embraced Hall with open arms, reintroducing him to a new generation of Kentucky fans. From being the Y at games to sitting in on practice, Hall became a fixture around the program once again. In 2012, Calipari and the university unveiled a statue of him outside the Wildcat Coal Lodge.
“I’ve told you this story,” Calipari recalled a month ago of his first interaction with Coach Hall. “The first practice I went to there were 22 guys. I thought I had a football team. I’m like, who are all these guys? There were 22 of them. I said, ‘Hold on. Hold on.’ (Coach Hall is) sitting there watching me do it. I made all of the walk-ons – like there are 11 of them – go to the side and put their toes on the sideline so I could just see. Then I had the managers on the block and when a kid shot it, I made them yell out his name and say, ‘Good shot, Patrick!’ I was trying to figure out who’s who. I knew Patrick (Patterson) and a couple of the guys, but then it was done, and I go into the room with my hands like this [motions to covering up his face]. ‘Oh my God, what did I do? What have I done?’
“And (Hall) walks in and puts his hand on my back, and he says, ‘You don’t worry. You are going to be great here. You watch. Don’t worry about one day.’ And that’s what the first thing he said to me. I’m just telling you, I’ve done this a long time. It is very unusual for the last coach to want the next one to win. There’s only going to be a few of us that are that way.”
Rest in Peace, Joe B.