UK Men's Basketball

Joe B. Hall statue unveiled at new home of UK's men's basketball team

The player's lounge in the new Wildcat Coal Lodge on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Following the dedication of the new Joe B. Hall statue, UK basketball coach John Calipari led a tour of the player's dorm for media and attendees of the dedication ceremony. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
The player's lounge in the new Wildcat Coal Lodge on the University of Kentucky campus in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, September 18, 2012. Following the dedication of the new Joe B. Hall statue, UK basketball coach John Calipari led a tour of the player's dorm for media and attendees of the dedication ceremony. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

Not by accident did the statue of Joe B. Hall unveiled Tuesday depict the former University of Kentucky basketball coach leaning forward. The bespectacled figure, with a trademark rolled-up program in his right hand, is nearly coming out of his bronzed seat.

"I was trying to capture what he meant (to UK basketball)," sculptor J Brett Grill said after the unveiling. The lean, he said, symbolizes "a sense of anticipation and looking forward."

In so many words, Coach John Calipari saluted Hall as someone who has figured prominently in UK's conquering new basketball vistas.

Most notably, Hall took a program built to dynastic proportions by Adolph Rupp and gave it a renewed sense of possibility. Largely by fully integrating the program in the 1970s, Hall reinvigorated Kentucky basketball.

Of Hall making good on the thankless job of succeeding an icon, Calipari likened Rupp to John Wooden, Paul "Bear" Bryant, Vince Lombardi and Phog Allen. All except Rupp represented cliffs from which their successors would plummet.

"No one that followed those other coaches won championships," Calipari said. "No one. There is only one guy, and we're here with him today."

Calipari noted how Hall's forward-thinking continues. Hall, who retired as Kentucky coach 27 years ago, remains a source for advice, encouragement and perspective.

"I can say, 'You sat in the seat, talk to me,'" Calipari told an audience of about 50 sitting under a tent on a rainy morning to watch the unveiling. "... This honor is well deserved."

The statue sits in the northwest corner of the new Wildcat Coal Lodge. An accompanying plaque in Hall's honor will be fastened to the building.

Hall spiced his appreciation with light-hearted comments.

"The pigeons will appreciate it," he said of the 400-pound bronze statue.

Of his likeness, Hall turned to Calipari and said, "John, I see you didn't use the picture I gave you of Gregory Peck." Later, he noted how the statue did not resemble Cary Grant.

Hall also took a well-received poke at Billy Gillispie, who served as UK coach from 2007 to 2009. Because of stress, Gillispie is on sick leave as Texas Tech coach.

"Talk about stress," Hall said. "Gillispie doesn't know anything about stress."

The quip evoked laughter.

After the unveiling of the sculpture, several people posed for pictures with Hall, and then Calipari led a tour of the lodge, a 20,000-square foot residence hall that cost $8 million.

Upon entering the front door, a photograph of coal miners hangs on the wall to the left. With it is the message, "Kentucky Coal, the Home Team Advantage."

Ironically, UK is in the process of getting the Coal Lodge LEED certification for energy efficiency and using clean energy.

Those on the tour saw the Alliance Coal dining room, which sits next to a lounge that has eight oversize easy chairs in front of a plasma television, plus a pool table.

On the upper floors are single rooms for the players. There are also double rooms. Each room includes a plaque near the entrance to recognize a donor. Among the donors recognized were Arch Coal, Armstrong Energy Inc., L.D. Gorman and Luther Deaton/Central Bank.

More than half of the lodge's 32 residents are students who are not on the basketball team, the coach said.

Joe Craft of Alliance Coal headed the effort to find donors for the Wildcat Coal Lodge. "I'm very excited about it," he said of the new lodge. "It meets their needs, and we're happy to do what we can to help them out."

Craft also found Grill to do the Hall sculpture. The idea came from his visits to Notre Dame, where three of his children attended college. Notre Dame honors significant figures with statues on campus. Because of his friendship with the family of former President Gerald Ford, Craft had seen Grill's statue of the former president in the Capitol Rotunda.

The statue of Ford depicts the former president buttoning his suit coat and rising from a seat. The statue symbolizes how Ford "dutifully served the country when called upon, but was not overly ambitious," Grill said.

The sculptor cited the help he received from UK archives in devising the Hall statue, which includes two empty chairs next to the Hall statue.

"I wanted people to be entering Coach Hall's space rather than have him just standing on campus," Grill said of the empty chairs.

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