Robert Gayle Rose — one of 43 former Kentucky players, coaches and contributors to have a retired jersey hanging in Rupp Arena — died on Nov. 12. Ten days earlier was his 84th birthday.
Rose played for UK in the early 1950s. A 6-foot guard, he started and averaged 6.7 points for Kentucky’s unbeaten (25-0) team in the 1953-54 season. That remains the only unbeaten team in UK basketball history.
Rose started and averaged 7.4 points as a senior in 1954-55.
Former UK teammate Frank Ramsey remembered Rose as a skilled ball-handler and shooter.
“He was a typical Kentucky boy who came out of a small town,” Ramsey said.
Rose grew up in Paris.
“I saw him play in high school,” former UK Coach Joe B. Hall said. “And he was one of the best ball-handlers and smoothest players. He was so graceful on the floor and so smooth.”
After his UK career ended, Rose was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, where he was a pilot at Hondo Air Force Base. He was honorably discharged in 1957 with the rank of first lieutenant.
“He was a fine man and just so unassuming to be the great player that he was,” Hall said. “He didn’t show any superiority to indicate he was a big shot. He was one of the most down-to-earth guys you’d ever meet.”
Remembrance donations for Rose may be made to Lexington Leadership Foundation, P.O. Box 4654, Lexington, Ky. 40544.