Here’s how Kentucky’s Madness tradition began in 1982
We think we know our sports heroes because we see them make three-point shots, score touchdowns, hit home runs and react to in-game success and failure. Supposed windows into the souls of coaches are sideline demeanor, interaction with referees and snippets from postgame news conferences.
A new book scheduled for release in October seeks to truly flesh out perhaps the most well-known living figure in Kentucky basketball history: former UK coach Joe B. Hall. The title reflects the book’s intended deep dive into its subject: Coach Hall: My Life On and Off the Court.
“Thousands of people think they know about him,” the author, Marianne Walker, said on Friday. “The older ones watched him coach, and they have pictures of him in their minds: the tall, big man with the dark hair and glasses and rolled up program.
“They know him that way.”
More than once in a 30-minute conversation, Walker mentioned that the book focuses on Hall the person. Of course, Hall the coach, the compelling subject of earlier books and countless journalistic efforts, is also included.
One of his first jobs growing up was washing dishes at an ice cream parlor. He had to stand on a box in order to easily navigate the dishes in the sink.
“He said he loved to work,” Walker said. “He’s always loved to work. He wished he could work now.” Hall will turn 91 on Nov. 30.
Stories about buying his first car and the revelation that comes the first time he put on glasses correcting poor vision also are told.
“None of this book is mine,” Walker said. “It’s what he wants to tell. I didn’t invent or embellish any of this. So it’s really his book, and it’s how he wants the world to know him.”
Interestingly for the basketball-obsessed environment that nurtured Hall, he and the author said the 200-plus pages should not be considered a quote-unquote sports book.
“It’s more about my life than it is about basketball,” Hall said.
One of his sons-in-law, retired football coach Mike Summers, referred to it as “more of a relationship book.”
That Walker, who initially suggested Hall work with a sportswriter, is the author says something. She is not a sports fan. She prefers Masterpiece Theatre and Civil War history to basketball and football. When her husband, a retired lawyer, is watching a game, “I’m watching C-Span in another room,” she said.
Walker, who lives in Henderson, grew up in Monroe, La. She graduated from a now-defunct all-girls Catholic college in New Orleans. Now in her 80s, she is a retired teacher who worked at Henderson Community College. She taught English composition, world literature, philosophy, and philosophy and ethics. “At the community college level, you work,” she said in explaining the wide range of subjects.
The long story of how Hall and Walker collaborated on his story began with the former UK coach reading and admiring her earlier book on the Cuba Cubs, the small school that won hearts from border to border by winning the 1952 Kentucky state championship. He subsequently invited her to talk about the book — When Cuba Conquered Kentucky — on the radio show he hosted with former Louisville coach Denny Crum.
When the University Press of Kentucky, which is publishing the Hall book, reissued the Cuba Cubs book (retitled The Graves County Boys), Hall wrote the prologue. Incidentally, former Courier Journal sports columnist Rick Bozich, now a journalist at Louisville station WDRB, wrote the foreword to Walker’s book on Hall.
When his family encouraged him to produce a memoir, Hall thought of Walker.
“He just would talk, and I would just ask questions,” Walker said of the two years she worked with Hall on the book. “We never had an unpleasant conversation. And he was never grouchy. He was very patient with me. I’m sure when he was talking about some of the things going on in the games, I needed my memory refreshed.”
The experience was so rewarding that Hall thought of a future collaboration.
“I know what we’ll write about in the next book,” he told Walker.
To which, she said, “What?”
“We’re going to write about how to be prepared for old age,” Hall said.
Last week saw reports of Kentucky and Indiana renewing what had been a compelling border state rivalry. IU Coach Archie Miller reportedly said a resumption of the series on a home-and-home basis was “on the table.” He also said that both UK and IU hoped the series would resume.
Deputy Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy, a central figure in UK’s basketball scheduling, said relations between the two programs is good. Miller and his family are longtime friends of UK Coach John Calipari.
Plus Miller has a former Calipari assistant coach, James “Bruiser” Flint, on his IU staff.
But Peevy cautioned against expectations of an announcement soon on the Kentucky-Indiana series.
“I’m not aware of anything new as of this summer,” Peevy said. “We’re not contemplating anything or there’s nothing on the table at this time.”
UK and IU have not talked at length about scheduling since Indiana fired Tom Crean as coach in 2017, Peevy said. But after Miller became the Hoosiers’ coach, the programs exchanged contact information.
UK and IU played in 43 straight regular seasons beginning in 1969-70. Given how a disagreement about whether to play on home courts or neutral sites reportedly ended the series in 2012, it’s interesting that there was an almost even split in those 43 years: 10 games in Lexington, 13 in Bloomington, 10 in Louisville and 10 in Indianapolis.
The site of future UK-IU games is not a pressing issue, Peevy said. The communication has been “about, in general, playing. … The next level of the conversation is just playing, period.”
As his health has declined in recent years, former UK player Reggie Warford reflected on his life. Inevitably, it would seem, this led to thinking about the progress, or lack thereof, in race relations.
Warford faced challenges as a key figure in the integration of Kentucky’s basketball program. But the passage of time has put those challenges in perspective.
“There is something I hear people complain about a lot,” he said of the present time. “And they say, ‘Well, I’m tired of being politically correct on this and that. And you can’t say this and you can’t say that. You know, well, the hell with it. We’re going to say it.’”
Warford said he does not define political correctness as a restriction on free speech. He defines it as a courtesy that should be extended to others. It is making an effort not to offend someone else.
“Common decency tells you there’s no benefit to offending people,” he said. “Why would you think there’s something in doing that?”
To explain how political correctness has become an issue, Warford cited the polarization of society resulting in less chance for common ground.
So, yes, Warford faced challenges as the lone black player in 1972-73. “But,” he added, “the honest truth is, looking back now, those were better days than today.”
A note last week about the Next College Student Athlete’s latest rating of prospects’ favorite basketball programs caught the eye of reader Christopher Harrison. In particular, he wrote to say that Arizona State ranked as the third-most popular program made him question the validity of the ranking.
A double-check with NCSA confirmed that Arizona State had the third-highest total of prospects listing it as a favorite college. The top four were Duke, UCLA, Arizona State and Kentucky.
Harrison, 72, is a native of Bardstown. He holds undergraduate and medical school (1971) degrees from UK. He described himself as a semi-retired physician-scientist-teacher who has been a UK fan since 1961-62.
The NCSA website is www.ncsasports.org/best-colleges.
(Belatedly) To Kent Hollenbeck. He turned 69 on Aug. 24. … To Bob Guyette. He turned 66 on Thursday. … To Morakinyo “Mike” Williams. He turned 31 on Thursday. … To Lukasz Obrzut. He turned 37 on Saturday. … To Jim Andrews. He turns 68 on Sunday (today). … To first-year Texas A&M Coach Buzz Williams. He turns 47 on Sunday (today). … To Steve Masiello. He turns 42 on Monday. … To former Georgetown coach John Thompson. He turns 78 on Monday. … To Bo Lanter. He turns 60 on Wednesday. … To Julius Mays. He turns 30 on Wednesday.