Most Recent Posts
- Signee Marcus Lee says Kentucky “will refuse to lose next year”
- Even UK football coach Mark Stoops did not expect this much fan support at Kentucky
- Video: UK softball coach Rachel Lawson previews the Super Regional clash against Arizona State
- ESPN.com’s Jason King seems to have logical rankings going into next season
- Mark Stoops on John Calipari: “I love being around him”
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands that hiring Vince Marrow was a home run for Kentucky
- Video: Larry hears cowbells, makes a chocolate cow and soaks up the culture in Switzerland
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about recruiting the home state of Kentucky
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON – Joe Hall had a 297-100 record during his coaching career at Kentucky and won the 1978 national championship.
Hall, 80, also played on UK’s 1949 national championship team and is one only three men – Bobby Knight and Dean Smith are the other two – ever to play on a national championship team and also coach a national title winner.
He still lives in Lexington and is not only a fixture at UK home basketball games, but he goes to various sporting events in central Kentucky and across the state. He’s even part of a popular morning radio show with Denny Crum, his former coaching rival at Louisville.
Before John Calipari accepted the UK coaching job, Hall was one of the people he called to ask about the program.
“I think John could really be special. He made me feel welcome and let me know that he wanted me to come by and come to practice every day if I want,” said Hall. “He said he would appreciate my critique of his practice and team. I wouldn’t hesitate to call to go to dinner or whatever with him.
“But Billy Clyde (Gillispie) was good to me, too. I got along real well with him. He invited me to practice and I did not take advantage. He never failed to spend time with me when I ran into him. I can’t say anything bad about him from my experiences.
“However, I don’t think there’s any doubt John Calipari totally understands UK basketball. He has a good handle on the program. He has had the experience and success to be able to handle it and is very well equipped for this job.”
Hall also shared his thoughts on a variety of other subjects.
Question: How often do you think back about the magical 1977-78 season and winning that national title?
Hall: “It was special, but the total coaching experience is what was really special. Dealing with young people and being in a competitive field like college athletics was fun, but my thoughts go the whole gamut of Little League baseball when I coached to high school football, basketball and baseball and then to small college. That small college experience was one that really prepared you to be a major college coach because you did everything. You even sold tickets. You sat up the chairs for the benches and cleaned the dressing rooms. You did it all. All of those experiences toughened you and prepared you for what you had at the higher level and made your job easier.
Question: Do you think you appreciate winning that title even more now than you do 31 years ago?
Hall: “You would be surprised how the public has forgotten most of my losses. Winning the championship kind of overrides that. That was very significant and something I will cherish. But I enjoyed all my teams. Some overachieved but not enough to win a championship, but had a chance. That year was very special, no question about that. That is the signature on your career for any coach.”
Question: Do you still enjoy coming and watching Kentucky play or have you seen so many games that some of the enjoyment has gone?
Hall: “I love the games. I love the high school sports, too. I love the high school football and basketball. You will find me at any event that is around close. I love when you have the high school football playoffs, the bowl games, the holiday basketball tournaments all over the state, and of course the UK games. It’s just so much fun.”
Question: Do you sometimes catch yourself coaching along in a game or speculating about what a coach or player might do?
Hall: “The coaching part of it I have let slide. I enjoy the aesthetics of the game. I enjoy seeing the players make the big plays and seeing the effort defensively when they go on the floor for loose balls and the excitement of the crowd. I like the whole atmosphere. It is so different from when you are coaching and things are so intensified and you are thinking about the future and correcting things and such. To sit back and just enjoy as a spectator is all the difference in the world.”
Question: How much fun are you having with Denny Crum on your morning radio show because you guys now seem more like life-time friends than former coaching rivals at Kentucky and Louisville?
Hall: “It is a lot of fun. Denny is so easy to get along with. He is such an outstanding person and such a community minded person. He does a lot for the University of Louisville. We have always had common interests. Naturally basketball, but we are both goose hunters, duck hunters and fishermen. We talk about it because it is important to our lifestyle. We went down to Marshall County on Dec. 4 to watch the Hoopfest and the next couple of days we went duck hunting. We mix basketball and a little hunting. We fish a lot together and go a lot of different places. We have both been to a lot of great fishing areas in the world. We really get along well and he is a great guy to be with.”
Question: What, if anything, still surprises or impresses you about the Kentucky basketball fan?
Hall: “The Kentucky basketball fan comes in two segments. There is a segment that is what I always called when I was coaching the family fan. They were the ones who understood the years when you didn’t have the talent and you were struggling. They had the knowledge of basketball and sports in general to be able to identify that and be patient.
“Then there is that group of fans who are incessant that everything be on top every year. And that’s good. You want a good mixture of family fans who will support you no matter what you do, and then you have a good group of fans who will not stand to see you lag or fall back and they are very vocal and their voice is heard. That’s the protector of the program. They are going to insist things stay on the top and moving forward.
“Both sets of fans are very good for Kentucky basketball. The critics keep you on your toes and the family fans keep you happy. At a program like Kentucky, you need them both. Believe me, I know.”
Question: How often do you get a chance to see former players and do you try to follow what some of them are doing?
Hall: “You see a lot of them around here. I see a lot of them at every Kentucky game. I even stay in touch with my Regis College kids and my Central Missouri kids. I communicate with my Shepherdsville (High School) players and fans from that area. That’s a great part of coaching that you never want to lose touch with.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON – Linebacker coach Chuck Smith still thinks the expectations on Micah Johnson his freshman year at Kentucky were unrealistic, but the UK coach also thinks Johnson could be ready for a banner senior season.
Johnson, UK’s middle linebacker, earned some all-Southeastern Conference recognition last year when he made 93 tackles, including 13 for losses, in 11 games even though he was slowed the second half of the year by an ankle injury.
“Obviously, Micah is Micah and we know what we have got with Micah,” said Smith. “He’s already been good, but he could be really special this year and we need him to do that.”
Johnson was coach Rich Brooks’ first high-profile recruit at Kentucky and has improved every year. He already has 180 career tackles. However, what has impressed Smith more than Johnson’s improved play has been his maturity and expanded leadership role.
“He does need to keep working on that, and he has. He has had good practices and is learning that it is probably better to lead by example than it is to lead by mouth,” Smith said. “Once he gets that figured out, he wil be a very, very good leader because he has the charisma and the personality to be an outstanding leader.
“Wesley Woodyard had the charisma to do it by mouth, but he also led by example. Braxton Kelley was just a shy guy that never spoke up that much, but there was no doubt about his leadership by example. Micah needs to be the same kind of great leader for us that they both were, and I think he can this year.”
Brooks says he wants to see more consistency from Johnson, who had 11 tackles in the Blue-White Game.
“Micah had an up and down spring,” Brooks said. “He did very well (in the Blue-White Game). He just needs to focus and he should have a great year.”
He’ll have two new starters – senior Sam Maxwell and sophomore Danny Trevathan – playing with him this year rather than Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams, two long-time starters.
“Sam Maxwell did a good job in spring practice and looked really good and so did Danny Trevathan. I was pleased with their progress even though they have work to do still,” Smith said.
“Look and listen for Sam Maxwell this year. He’s always been knocking on the door of being a starter and this is his chance. I think he wil be a big-time player.
“Trevathan is athletic, fast, physical. He looks to be a future star. He’s not started a game yet, but once he gets a taste of SEC play and progresses like I think he will, he has a chance to be one of the great linebackers at Kentucky.”
Trevathan is so fast that he returned a kickoff 31 yards in the spring game.
“How long has it been since Kentucky had a linebacker fast enough to return kickoffs?” Brooks said. “We graduated some good linebackers but as good as those two were, these two had a great spring. Trevathan can really run. He still has things to learn, but he’s a playmaker.”
Smith also spent the spring looking at inexperienced linebackers who will likely have to play next season.
“Will Johnson came along a little slower because it is a lot to learn and this is really his first time to get a full taste of the defensive assignments and all the responsibilities. Ronnie Sneed had a good spring and so did Jacob Dufrene and Antonio Thomas. They are all in the same boat,” Smith said.
Smith wouldn’t rule out a true freshman possibly getting on the field like Trevathan did last year.
“It would be hard, but not impossible. The first three guys have really done their jobs and turned their game up,” Smith said. “They have it going on right now. They are showing a lot of desire to being the best they can be. They are just ahead of the others right now, but that could be the same way the second group will be when the freshmen get here in the summer and fall.”
UK assistant football coach Chuck Smith spoke to some local chapters of the University of Kentucky alumni associations Friday, April 24. Prior to his speech, he talked to Larry about Saturday’s spring Blue-White game.
LEXINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€ Junior college small forward Darnell Dodson is the second Kentucky signee for coach John Calipari.
The Miami-Dade Community College standout has signed with the Wildcats after averaging 15.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season to help his team go 26-2 and win the Southern Conference championship. The 6-7 Dodson shot 76.7 percent from the foul line to earn all-conference honors. He will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Calipari missed on Oklahoma prep standout swingman Xavier Henry earlier in the week, but quickly persuaded Dodson to cast his lot with the Wildcats.
Dodson had originally signed with Pittsburgh after his prep career in Greenbelt, Md. However, he transferred to Miami-Dade because he was told he would not be academically eligible to play at Pitt as a freshman.
He was expected to return to Pitt. However, when assistant coach Orlando Antigua left to join CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s staff at Memphis, Dodson signed with Memphis. Now that Antigua is with Calipari at Kentucky, Dodson asked for his release from Memphis and decided to sign with Kentucky.
Calipari had already signed DeMarcus Cousins of Mobile, Ala. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s considered one of the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top three players and had verbally committed to Memphis before changing his mind after Calipari changed jobs.
Also in CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s incoming class will be Kentucky Mr. Basketball Jon Hood and Oklahoma center Daniel Orton, who both signed with the Cats in November when Billy Gillispie was the coach.
Calipari hopes he is not finished adding players and the signing period runs through May 20. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still courting North Carolina point guard John Wall, the nationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top player. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s expected to narrow his list of potential college choices this weekend and several sources indicate that Calipari remains No. 1 on his list just as he was when he was at Memphis.
The Kentucky coach is also still pursuing point guard Eric Bledsoe, who has had Florida No. 1 on his list.