In expressing appreciation for being elected to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall noted the boost he got from the program's ever-demanding fans.
"They're not going to let you relax," he said Tuesday. "They keep you sharp and on your toes."
Becoming UK coach in 1972, Hall faced the unusual task of following a coaching legend — in his case, Adolph Rupp. As Hall famously noted, UCLA should have hired him to follow John Wooden three years later. "Why ruin two coaches' lives?" he quipped at the time.
Hall chuckled when reminded of that comment. "I was conscious of the pressure I had," he said.
Noting how he played for UK and later served seven seasons as a Rupp assistant, Hall said, "I knew what the pressures were. That probably made me work harder."
Within three years of becoming head coach, Hall guided Kentucky to the NCAA Tournament championship game and, in 1978, he earned National Coach of the Year honors while coaching UK to its fifth national title. His UK teams won eight Southeastern Conference championships and advanced to three Final Fours. He was named SEC Coach of the Year four times.
But his greatest contribution to UK basketball might have been leading the program to full integration in the 1970s. Less than a decade earlier, Kentucky became synonymous with all-white teams because fate placed it in the 1966 national championship game against Texas Western, which featured the first all-black starting lineup to win the NCAA Tournament.
Hall noted how he worked with Rupp to begin to integrate UK basketball. From his first season as a high school coach, he had black players on his teams.
"I never coached a team (without black players) till Kentucky," he said. "I felt very comfortable in bringing in African-American players and coaching them. It never seemed any different."
Hall was not the only person with Kentucky ties elected to the 2012 class of inductees into the National Hall.
Lexington businessman Jim Host was voted in as a contributor. He pioneered the marketing of college basketball in general, various programs and the NCAA Tournament.
"Biggest surprise of my life," Host said of the election to the Hall of Fame. He called it the "culmination of my career."
Other members of the Hall's 2012 class are players Patrick Ewing of Georgetown, Clyde Lovellette of Kansas, Phil Ford of North Carolina, Earl Monroe of Winston-Salem State, Kenny Sailors of Wyoming and Willis Reed of Grambling. Other inductees will be former Virginia Union coach Dave Robbins and longtime SEC basketball analyst (and later Louisiana State athletics director) Joe Dean.
The class of 2012 will be formally inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 18.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com