Former UK Coach Joe B. Hall to be honored as 'heart hero'

Busy ex-UK coach to be honored by American Heart Association

ctruman@herald-leader.comFebruary 21, 2012 

  • Heart attack signs

    Warning signs of a heart attack can include:

    ■ Chest discomfort. This can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

    ■ Discomfort in other areas of the upper body.

    ■ Shortness of breath.

    ■ Other signs can include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

    What to do: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, tell a doctor about your symptoms. Don't wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.

    Source: American Heart Association

    About Joe B. Hall

    Hall became UK men's basketball coach in 1972 and held that job for 13 years. His teams went 297-100, reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament six times and the Final Four three times, and won the 1978 NCAA championship.

    He now co-hosts The Joe B. and Denny Show with former University of Louisville coach Denny Crum. It airs 10 a.m. to noon on 101.5 FM.

  • The American Heart Association's 24th Central Kentucky Heart & Stroke Ball

    When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. reception and silent auction; 8 p.m. dinner

    Where: Bluegrass Ballroom, Lexington Center

    Dress: Black tie preferred

    Tickets: $200 a person

    For more information: Heart.org/lexingtonkyheartball or American Heart Association, (859) 977-4601

Former University of Kentucky's men's basketball coach Joe B. Hall, American Heart Association Lexington honoree, is preparing for his morning radio show while polishing off an Arby's breakfast wrap.

He is juggling four guests, his two co-hosts, who are in Louisville, and an appearance at a high school basketball tournament bearing his name the next day.

Hall evaluates the information before him in his wire-ringed notebook as he did 40 years ago, taking in at a glance the various players like chess pieces on a shiny arena floor.

Then he recalls the moment back in 1997 when his heart stopped him in his tracks and led to his being honored Saturday as a survivor at the Lexington Heart Ball.

Hall, now 83, who replaced the legendary Adolph Rupp as UK coach, led the Wildcats to an NCAA championship in 1978. He retired as coach in 1985.

Twelve years later, he had just celebrated his 69th birthday coaching a women's team in Japan. He felt great. Hall returned to the United States and went to Iowa as part of multi-game stint as a color analyst.

The parking lot was a long way back from the arena, and as he walked, Hall felt a sharp pain in his left shoulder.

He stopped walking. The pain went away.

It came back at the airport.

When he got back to Lexington, he went to the doctor for a stress test. The test was halted halfway through.

Hall had a double bypass the next day. He was told later that he had been well on his way to a "widowmaker" heart attack, a full blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery, considered lethal.

He takes the news that he is a "heart hero" with humor, clutching his heart gleefully.

"That's a heck of a way to be a hero," he said.

The American Heart Association begs to differ. Mike Turner, special events director for the association's Lexington branch, said the organization chose to honor Hall because "he has not just survived heart disease; he has thrived. His daughters recently told me after going through old family photographs in preparing for the ball that they can't believe all he has done and the life he has lived since his surgery.

"He is an example to others and a reminder about how far we have come in the fight against heart disease and stroke."

Kathy Summers of Lexington, one of Hall's daughters, said the trouble with her father is that not only does he still walk most days, he never, ever slows down.

"Oh my gosh, he wears me out," Summers said. "He really loves what he's doing. He loves his radio show. He loves getting out and doing things with his friends."

She said Hall is awaiting the birth of his first great-grandchild.

Always an attentive exerciser and a careful eater, Hall said he didn't change his habits post-surgery. He neither smoked nor drank, "so there wasn't much to change," he said, and he still lifts some weights and does some "light resistance" exercises.

Since the initial surgery, he has had two stents inserted. He also is a diabetic and has had his gallbladder and part of his colon removed.

He is philosophical about his varied ailments, saying that at his age, many of his friends and colleagues deal with the same thing.

"You have to know your body," Hall said. "You have to be aware of the symptoms."

He's also convinced that his faith helped see him through.

"I feel there is a very definite faith that helps your mental outlook, and that helps your physical outlook," he said. "The two go hand in hand."

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman

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