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Joe Hall

Former UK Coach Joe B. Hall is escorted to midcourt by Ashley Judd and the UK cheerleaders. (all rights reserved)

Former UK Coach Joe B. Hall is escorted to midcourt by Ashley Judd and the UK cheerleaders. (all rights reserved)

By LARRY VAUGHT

If Twitter, Facebook and other social media forums had been around when Joe Hall was coaching, the former Kentucky coach isn’t sure he would “have participated” in any of that.

“I couldn’t tweet … or what is it. And Facebook and all that would have got me,” said Hall, who led UK to the 1978 national championship. “ “Your job of coaching and keeping  up with your players and opponents and recruiting, I think I would have missed out on that and would probably have been out of date so far that the young kids would not want to play for me. I couldn’t have done all that tweet stuff.”

What if his 1978 team had Twitter to share thoughts with the public daily, especially with the outgoing personalities so many of those players had?

“Who knows? It would have been a circus I am sure,” he said.

Hall stopped short of saying coaching is harder now than when he led Kentucky.

“I think you go in and adjust. It is here to stay with the social media. There is not much you can do about, so you may as well go along with it and get yourself involved in it so you fully understand and know what to expect,” Hall said. “You can certainly talk to your team and tell them what is appropriate and what isn’t and maybe assign somebody to monitor what they put on Twitter or Facebook

“But I would think all this stuff has made it more fun for fans. I think lot of fans follow and listen to reports and look forward to it really even if coaches don’t.”

Hall’s “social media” was The Cats’ Pause, a weekly print publication founded by Oscar Combs when Hall was the head coach.

“It was a good thing. Coach (Adolph) Rupp never allowed the players to be interviewed or quoted. He never allowed the assistant coaches to be interviewed,” Hall said. “I think it was an educational experience for the players to give them the exposure and let them know the repercussions and to be held responsible for what they said publicly.

“It was part of their education and social adjustment. I think you are seeing the same thing here, just maybe on a more observed nature than back in my day but similar type situation with the social media.”

Hall, who was never known as a media darling, always had his locker room open to media members. Now most teams make only select players available in interview areas and keep locker rooms off limits to media members.

“Well, maybe there is enough out there that they don’t need to be singled out and interviewed face to face,” Hall said. “We had an open locker room. Players were free to say whatever they wanted, but they did know there were repercussions for things that would cause them harm. Not necessarily through me, but through public perception for things they said.”

Hall attends most UK games at Rupp Arena, watches games on TV and is friends with UK coach John Calipari. So has he enjoyed watching this team play that has gone from preseason No. 1 to not in the top 25?

“I enjoy basketball in general. I am out of step with this style. I have not been able to evolve from the old basketball to the new basketball. That was a slow evolution over a lot of years that brings it to the dribble-drive and the wide-open type of offenses you see today. I would be totally out of step today,” Hall said.

“In a way I would like to see some of the old things tried but they have probably already been tried and proved unacceptable with the new systems. If that is so, then I ride along with it. I don’t understand it and it isn’t the way we did it back 30 years ago, but 30 years before I coached things were not done exactly like I did it. Basketball evolves and changes over the years. The professional league has a lot of influence. The change in the rules interpretation has a lot of impact on how the game is played.

“There’s a lot of different stuff now that I probably just could never get used to and I know I could never do that tweet stuff like Cal does all the time. That would have just been too much for me.”

Vaught’s note: Vaughtsviews.com contributor Rene Cornette gives us a glimpse of what the documentary, “The Sixth Man: A Krazy Love Story,” about the passion of UK basketball fans involves. It’s a terrific read, one I guarantee you will enjoy. The movie is being shown at The Grand in Lancaster Thursday at 7:30 p.m. I plan to be there. Come and join me for this look at what the Big Blue fans are like.

By RENE CORNETTE

“The Sixth Man: A Krazy Love Story” is a documentary but even more than that it’s a love letter to Big Blue Nation. It’s a documentary that literally gave me chills just from watching the trailer for it. I have anticipated it’s debut for months and even with all that build up, “The Sixth Man” still exceeded my expectations. I have watched it multiple times and I fall in love with a different part every time. I notice a new quote that pulls at my heart strings. I scream when I recognize one of Kentucky’s super fans. I laugh at the craziness of our fans and I even cry when fans tell their stories. My point is this documentary is everything that sets Kentucky fans a part from all others.

It’s a documentary that we all can be proud of. A documentary that we all can relate to. It spans generations from the days of Rupp to Calipari. It touches upon our long gone heroes like Cawood Ledford and reminds you once again of what made you a Kentucky fan. I found myself pausing the DVD constantly to talk to my husband about my early childhood memories of Kentucky basketball that came pouring back to me from watching, “The Sixth Man.”

That’s Kentucky basketball. It’s family. It’s crowding around your radio as a kid listening to Cawood, Harlan County’s own, call the game. It’s huddling around your tv praying that the CATS can comeback just one more time. It’s later fighting back tears as you watch your CATS go down on a last second shot. It’s being so proud watching Kentucky win a national championship that you swear your heart could burst. “The Sixth Man” is all of that and more.

It’s our story. Our journey through time told by the people who lived it. Kyle Macy, Dan Issel, Kenny Skywalker, Joe B Hall, Ralph Hacker and our own, Larry Vaught. It also featured famous fans Laura Bell Bundy, Josh Hopkins and Kevin and Brian Richardson of the Backstreet Boys. My personal favorite famous fans from the movie were Josh Hutcherson and Steve Zahn. I loved their enthusiasm. I loved listening to their stories but most of all I loved how they showed Kentucky basketball fandom knows no income limit. I think Ralph Hacker said it best, “It didn’t make any difference whether you were rich or poor your voice was just as loud when it came to cheering for the Wildcats.” Amen, Ralph. Amen.

“The Sixth Man” goes beyond all of that though. It displays every type of fandom. From the crazies who dress up and get tatted to the fringe who burn couches and call into radio shows disparaging our coach and players. It shows fans who have turned their homes into shrines for Kentucky. It even touches upon a Kentucky and Louisville fan who came to blows at a dialysis center. If that doesn’t prove the instate rivalry is the greatest in college basketball than I don’t know what will. This movie is every single person who has been touched by the “blue dust” as Calipari calls it. It’s a life long affair without an end in sight. It gets in your blood and never leaves. It’s as a fan pointed out in the documentary, it’s being born with blue blood not red. That’s what makes Kentucky fans special. Others talk about it but we live it, every single day and, “The Sixth Man” displays it perfectly.

By the time, “The Sixth Man” movie portrays Kentucky basketball as a religion you know why. It’s our sanctity, our solace and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s getting caught up in a game for a few hours and forgetting you worries. It’s our unadulterated joy. The time when we remember what it felt like to be a kid. The time we thank God that we were born into a family of Kentucky fans. The time we bond with our families and the time we pass the love of our team down to the next generation of CATS fans. It’s what our own, Larry Vaught described perfectly, ” If you have a chance to watch the basketball game or go to dinner with your spouse, you know what that’s going to be. You’re going to watch the basketball game.”

“The Sixth Man” even ends with it’s own redemption story. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’ll just leave it at that. I just want to say this documentary is a must see for Big Blue Nation. We are UK and as Coach Cal said, we truly are the sixth man. You won’t regret buying this movie. You won’t regret going to watch the documentary at your local theater if you are so lucky as to have it come to your town. Most of all, you wont ever regret once getting lost in 88 minutes of the best portrayal of the greatest fan base on Earth, Big Blue Nation. A nation that I’m so proud to be a part of. A nation that is more like a family and this documentary is our homecoming. Buy it, watch it, watch it again, and then watch it just a few more times in a row. It’s that good. It’s that addictive but hey why wouldn’t it be, it’s about the greatest fans in the world who power the greatest college basketball program. Big Blue Nation is the best and this movie shows why. Go buy your copy now and remember why you fell in love with Kentucky basketball in the first place. I’m just going to watch, “The Sixth Man” one more time…..okay, maybe twice more.

By LARRY VAUGHT

The more you see the things John Calipari does, the more you understand why so many high-profile players want to play for him.

The Kentucky coach wants former UK coach Eddie Sutton, who is in the College Basketball Hall of Fame, to come back to UK and watch his team practice. Sutton has coached at  Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State  and led all to NCAA Tournament berths. Of course, he was also in charge at UK when the Cats went on probation and need Rick Pitino to come in and revive a program that nearly hit rock bottom.

Sutton was 90-40 in four years at UK, but resigned e in 1989 after a 13-19 season  amid allegations of NCAA wrongdoing(although he was not cited in any charges).

Calipari has invited Sutton back to Lexington and hopes he will come.

“I said, ‘Come on in, man. Come on in to practice.’ I’m not into all that other stuff. My whole thing is Eddie Sutton has been great for the game of basketball and great for college coaches and has helped many, many programs.  Like many of us, you have hiccups along the way. I’m not judgmental in any way,” Calipari told Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World.

“All I’m saying is I would love for him to come to my practice and evaluate what we are doing and be a set of eyes for me. He and (former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall, who watches practices) can sit there. If I was allowed to, I would let him coach my team. I have got no problem with that. But I would love for him to come back and spend time, and I think he likes the idea.”

 

Coaches John Calipari and Joe B. Hall. (Gary Moyers photo)

Coaches John Calipari and Joe B. Hall. (Gary Moyers photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Gary Graves of The Associated Press got some perspective on UK’s basketball woes this season from former coach Joe Hall. Here is an excerpt from the story with comments from Hall as the Cats prepare to host LSU Saturday afternoon:

The Wildcats have already tripled last year’s loss total and have yet to beat a ranked opponent. After hosting LSU, Kentucky travels to No. 23 Mississippi and Texas A&M — which beat the Wildcats on Jan. 12 — before hosting South Carolina and Auburn.

With the Rebels, No. 8 Florida and No. 22 Missouri being the SEC’s only ranked teams, Kentucky needs every conference win it can get to boost its NCAA tournament prospects. That means beating teams it’s supposed to and snatching a win from one of those ranked squads.

Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall believes it’s possible for the Wildcats if they remember that redemption is just a game away. “They’re a young squad and there are going to be good times and bad times,” Hall said. “Tuesday night was one of those times where it was half good and half bad. It’s going to be up and down with young players and their emotions. … They can turn the corner, but they just haven’t put it all together yet.”

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Former Kentucky coach Joe Hall and contributor Jim Host of Kentucky were part of a 10-man class inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday night at the historic Midland Theatre, tipping off a three-day celebration of college basketball.

Georgetown’s dominating center Patrick Ewing, Kansas legend Clyde Lovellette and North Carolina’s star guard Phil Ford headlined the class that also included coach Dave Robbins of Virginia Union; players Kenny Sailors of Wyoming, Earl Monroe of Winston Salem State and Willis Reed of Grambling; and contributor  Joe Dean.

The 2012 induction ceremonies for the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame may be seen on Sunday, December 9, at 10 p.m. (EST) on ESPNU.

As a Kentucky assistant coach in 1972, Hall had the unenviable task of succeeding Adolph Rupp. Unfazed by the task, Hall guided the Wildcats for 13 seasons, winning 75 percent of 397 games. Within three years, he reached the NCAA championship game and, in 1978, he earned National Coach of the Year honors while coaching Kentucky to its fifth national title with a 30-2 record. His Wildcat teams won eight SEC championships and earned a Final Four berth for the third time in 1984. He was named SEC Coach of the Year four times.

Few men have influenced the game of basketball as diversely as Dean. The three-time All-SEC player at LSU was a promotions and marketing executive with the Converse Rubber Co. from 1959-1987, advocating not only the Converse products but promoting the game of basketball wherever he traveled. In addition, he was a basketball color analyst with several networks including ESPN, NBC and Turner Sports from 1969-1987 before returning to his alma mater in Baton Rouge as director of athletics for 14 years.

The founder and principal of Host Communications, Host realized the potential growth of men’s basketball and partnered the NCAA with major corporations like Gillette, Valvoline and Pizza Hut. Host, who also had a background in broadcasting, went on to create a model for multimedia rights, bundling everything from coaches’ radio and TV shows, promotional appearances, endorsements and publishing into a single package for some of the nation’s top programs. He has been recognized as one of college athletics’ most influential people.

Bobby Petrino photo courtesey USA Today/Wesley Hitt

Bobby Petrino photo courtesey USA Today/Wesley Hitt

By LARRY VAUGHT

Three weeks ago when it became apparent there likely would have to be a coaching change at Kentucky, it seemed unlikely that former Louisville and Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino would be on UK’s list of potential new coaches no matter if he is considered one of the best offensive coaches in the game and needed a job.

But now, things seem to be changing. Indications are Kentucky may indeed have not just a bit of interest in Petrino, but a lot of interest as it continues the process for finding a coach while Joker Phillips guides the Wildcats through the final two games of what has been a 1-9 season.

Numerous sources seem to feel Petrino is on UK’s radar now despite these possible concerns:

— In April Petrino was involved in a motorcycle crash with former Arkansas all-SEC volleyball player Jessica Dorrell, whom he had hired in March as the student-athlete development coordinator for the football program. Petrino denied that anyone was with him at first, but later admitted Dorrell was not only a passenger, but that he had an adulterous relationship with her. It was also discovered that Petrino made a previously undisclosed $20,000 cash gift to Dorrell and Arkansas fired Petrino.

— Petrino got his first head coaching job at Louisville in 2003, but secretly interviewed for the coaching job at Auburn before there was a coaching vacancy at Auburn during his second season at Louisville. Petrino had 11 wins in 2004 and 12 wins in 2006 and signed a 10-year, $25.6 million contract with Louisville but about six months later left  to become the head coach of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.

— With three games left in his first NFL season, Petrino resigned as coach of the Falcons and took the coaching job at Arkansas.

But former UK basketball coach Joe Hall says there is another side to some of those stories. Hall’s son-in-law, Mike Summers, coached under Petrino before coming to Lexington three years ago to join Phillips’ staff.

“I know there is a lot of misinformation about Petrino and looking for other jobs when he was at Louisville, especially the situation at Auburn,” said Hall. “People were wanting to talk to him. He was not out chasing jobs and would not have left Louisville if he had not been approached about jobs. He was very loyal to Louisville. The AD (athletics director) and president at Auburn pressure him to meet with them. They flew up to southern Indiana to talk to him. He told them it was a waste of time but he had been at Auburn as offensive coordinator and respected those people. All he did was talk. Nothing else.”

What about leaving the Falcons the way he did?

“The situation was not him leaving team with three games to go. He went into management to bench a couple of starters that were causing problems and they told him he couldn’t do it,” Hall said. “He said was to have complete control but they said he couldn’t bench players they were paying big money. He told them then he would be not be back the next year and they said he was finished now. He was going to finish the year. He was not going to walk out. But they changed the locks on the door so he could not get back to the locker room. There was a lot more to that story.”

Hall, who won the 1978 national championship, is an avid football fan and sees no reason for UK not to hire Petrino now.

“This is a very unusual opportunity to have a coach out of a job who could be the guy that you want here,” Hall said. “I would think it is an unbelievable opportunity to get a coach that maybe you would never ordinarily be able to approach. With the situation here, you could not get a better coach than Bobby Petrino. This is a chance for Kentucky to bring in a very predictable successful coach.”

Hall noted that UK once passed over basketball coach John Calipari and hired Billy Gillispie because some at UK had concerns about rumored problems Calipari had with the NCAA.

“After Gillipsie, it was so important to get UK back on the winning side that they (UK officials) overlooked what they were afraid of the first time with hiring Calipari. They brought him in and it has not been a bad situation at all,” Hall said. “Calipari was different in that he was still a winner and had not done anything morally wrong. A lot of his problems with his perception but the NCAA had never come down on him personally in any way.”

Hall describes Petrino as a “taskmaster” and said he could be “tough” on assistant coaches and “demanding” on his players. But aren’t most top coaches that way?

“He’s a very strict disciplinarian. He recruits kids that might have a temptation to stray a little and he rides herd on them,” Hall said.

Hall called Petrino an “offensive genius” who can look at a defense and “pick it apart if he has the players” to run his offense.

“He would make (Maxwell) Smith or (Patrick) Towles a great quarterback,” Hall said. “He would have good players to work with at UK and a young team that he could mold.”

Kentucky has not won a SEC championship since 1977. Other teams that have won championships might have coaching vacancies in the weeks ahead. But Hall believes the uncertainty about the future could help UK land Petrino.

“I know he likes Kentucky. His family like Kentucky,” Hall said. “It would be a very satisfying move for his family to come back here.”

Think about it. Rick Pitino left Kentucky for the NBA, struggled and returned to Louisville. He was involved in an extramarital affair, but took the Cards to the Final Four last year and is favored to do so again.

Would UK fans be as accepting of Petrino?

“if he won, how do you think they would embrace him. It is a matter of he came and turned the program around in two years, nobody would have a problem with him just like they don’t another certain coach at another school in this state,” Hall said.

Anne Crawford's painting of the UK national championship coaches. (photo submitted)

Anne Crawford’s painting of the UK national championship coaches. (photo submitted)

By LARRY VAUGHT

For several years Tim Bess had been encouraging his wife, Danville artist Anne Crawford to do a painting based on the tradition of the University of Kentucky basketball. Last summer she found herself considering the best way to portray the deep tradition of UK basketball in an original oil portrait.

“Her artistic, creative mind went to work. She then invited our family to share ideas, to discuss the painting, to conduct research, and to take a close look at all that is encompassed by UK Basketball’s tradition throughout the decades,” said Jean Crawford Griffin, Anne’s sister.

Finally, the idea came. Why not a painting with each of the UK coaches — Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and John Calipari — who won a national championship with the Wildcats.

“Each coach and championship trophy became a part of Anne’s vision for the painting,” Griffin said.

The painting shows each coach with the trophy — or trophies for Rupp — he won. They are all standing on the Rupp Arena court.

“We looked at things to see how to portray each coach, but Anne creates her own vision. She has to have some reference for facial features, but everything Anne does is an original and this certainly is a unique piece of art,” Griffin said. “We thought about including all the UK coaches, but we decided we did not want one (Billy Gillispie) of them in it. So we thought the best thing to do was go with coaches who won a championship.

“We started the research and started looking at the trophies and how they have changed over the years. We wanted to make sure we were as historically accurate as possible.”

Anne Crawford, 51, is well know for her portrait and equine art. She has done historical medical art, but this is her venture into what she hopes might turn into a series of legacy paintings.

“We don’t think there is anything like this piece of art anywhere,” Griffin, who has two degrees from UK and once worked in the UK athletics department. “Our whole family is Wildcat fans and we knew if Anne was going to broaden her horizons into the sports world this would be the best way to start and a very talked about piece of art because there is nothing like it. We looked at maybe doing one for football, and thought no. Anne is really good at catching game action, but this one with all the coaches is what came to mind and what all the family liked best.”

Griffin, a six organ transplant recipient , calls herself a grassroots donate life ambassador and is active in the annual UK-UofL Gift of Life Challenge between Kentucky and Louisville during basketball season. It’s a drive to sign up organ donors that began in 2001 and the winner will be announced when UK and Louisville play at the YUM Center in December.

Crawford and Griffin would like to think there might be a way to get Kentucky coach John Calipari involved with using the painting to promote organ donations. They are considering producing a limited number of prints and Griffin and hopes there might be a  way to involve Calipari and/or Louisville coach Rick Pitino in the project.

“We would just do a limited number of prints so that people would be very proud of having print No. 1 or print 100,” Griffin said. “We want the original painting to be in the best possible place whether that be in an individual owner’s hands or one of the UK coaches or his family. Maybe it belongs in the UK basketball offices. It’s not easy to know exactly where it belongs or what will be the right thing to do.

“But if there is a way to promote organ donation and the tradition of UK basketball at the same time, that would be great for everyone. This is a unique painting and we are open to any and all ideas because we know how unique this is from anything else.”

Coaches John Calipari and Joe B. Hall. (Gary Moyers photo)

Coaches John Calipari and Joe B. Hall. (Gary Moyers photo)

Vaught’s note: As an editor of The Cats’ Pause and sportswriter and sports editor for The Richmond Register, Nick Nicholas covered the University of Kentucky basketball program from 1985-1995. He is currently the director of sports development with Nicholas & Lence Communications in New York, NY. Today he adds his input on whether the 1978 national champion Wildcats should compare to the 1996 or 2012 championship team

By NICK NICHOLAS

I understand there is a playful squabble going back and forth between who’s better: the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats or 1996 Kentucky Wildcats. Both enjoyed domination over opponents en route to their respective national championships. Each base passionately argues for their favorite, either the 2012 or 1996 national champion, claiming theirs was the most dominant.

One problem. Aren’t you forgetting another Kentucky squad to be in the conversation: The 1978 Kentucky Wildcats? Remember this Wildcat team that went 30-2? Remember this Wildcat team that was No. 1 for nearly the entire 1977-78 season? Remember this Wildcat team that won by an average of 14.5 points per game, won 12 of its games by more than 20 points and three by 30 or more?

I’m not saying Joe B. Hall’s championship squad would defeat either John Calipari’s 2011-12 team or Rick Pitino’s 1995-96 team. That’s not the point.

But the ’78 Wildcats should be in this conversation. That’s the point

(Forgive me for not adding any of Adolph Rupp’s four championship teams. That’s for someone else to bring up. I may be old, but I’m not that old).

The ’77-78 season was a different time and different style that didn’t include the shot clock, conference tournament, 3-point line, NCAA’s mega $$$ investment and domed stadiums in the tournament and designer basketball shorts clinging to the knees.

Nope, these were simpler times.

The core of the ’78 Wildcats were starters Jack Givens, Rick Robey and Mike Phillips along with “Sixth Man’’ and fan favorite James Lee. Each had been through the wars as freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

As freshmen they were an active part of the ’75 team along with senior leaders Kevin Grevey, Jimmy Dan Conner, Bob Guyette and Mike Flynn that knocked off No. 1 and undefeated Indiana in the Mideast Regionals before losing in the NCAA Championship game to coaching legend John Wooden’s last UCLA squad.

The next season as sophomores they won the National Invitational Tournament in New York when the NIT still meant something and NCAA bids weren’t a dime a dozen.

During their junior years they were one of the country’s top teams, only to lose to North Carolina in the East Regionals. That was one of those days I recall as if it were yesterday. Only hours earlier I had watched my beloved Owensboro Red Devils lose to No. 1 Louisville Ballard in a Saturday morning semifinal session of the Sweet 16 at Freedom Hall. We went back to our hotel room at the Executive Inn to painfully watch UNC’s Four Corner offense suffocate Kentucky’s dreams of going to a Final Four.

Unlike today’s college game where fans have to wonder if their school’s star freshmen, sophomores or juniors will forgo their remaining college eligibility for the NBA, Kentucky fans could look to something special in 1977-78.

Now throw in a talented transfer from Purdue who would be Hall’s coach on the floor and this Kentucky team transformed itself into a Big Blue Machine.

With the exception of another player from Indiana (Larry Bird, Indiana to Indiana State), Kyle Macy may be the most significant transfer in college basketball history. The 6-foot-3 Macy directed traffic on the hardwood, and with precision passes and outside jumpers his talents as a point guard made this UK team the preseason favorite to win its fifth national championship.

Macy was the final piece to this championship puzzle to fit nicely with the sharpshooting Givens, 6-foot-10, 235-pound bookends Phillips and Robey, Lee’s intimidating and uplifting play and Truman Claytor and Jay Shidler’s vital contributions on the perimeter.

Hall had a team practically invincible, mirroring Pitino and Calipari’s championship teams. The ’78 team’s only losses were to one of those “off’’ nights in Tuscaloosa and one of those “crazy Dale Brown overtime’’ nights in Baton Rouge.

Nevertheless, “the season without celebration’’ delivered a 16-2 run in the Southeastern Conference followed by NCAA victories over Florida State, Miami (Ohio), Michigan State led by freshman Earvin Magic Johnson, Arkansas with its noted Triplets of Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph coached by a guy named Eddie Sutton and Duke in the title tilt at St. Louis’ 20,000-seat Checkerdome.

Wait a minute. Duke vs. Kentucky in the finals? A lot of media buildup? Remember, this was the Dick Enberg era of college basketball, not Dick Vitale. It didn’t create the same hype that you’d expect today in a Blue Devil vs. Wildcat championship game.

Twice in the NCAA tournament the ’78 team scored in the 90s – remember no shot clock and no 3-point line. They survived a 52-49 half-court struggle against Michigan State thanks in part to Macy sinking six consecutive free throws in the game’s final three minutes.

Givens had a dominating senior year comparable to Anthony Davis’ superb freshman campaign. The 6-foot-5 small forward with a deft southpaw touch was a National Player of the Year, Final Four Most Outstanding Player, Mideast Regional Most Outstanding Player and a First-Team All-SEC selection.

That night Givens lit up the Blue Devils’ zone defense for 41 points as UK controlled the Blue Devils for most of the night – much like the ’96 team did against Syracuse and the 2012 Wildcats against Kansas – with a 94-88 score that wasn’t that close.

Givens’ profile was tattooed on the cover of that week’s Sports Illustrated with “The Goose was Golden.’’

“Jack Givens played the best game I have ever seen anyone play,” said Duke’s junior captain Jim Spanarkel. “I guess we played him on a night we shouldn’t have played him.”

Both Robey (No. 3) and Givens (No. 16) were selected in the NBA’s first round while Lee was taken in the second round and Phillips was the first pick of the third round. Ironically, Macy’s Kentucky career ended two years later with a loss to Duke in the NCAA Mideast Regional semifinals in Lexington.

If you did a tale of the tape between the three teams, the ’96 team might have the most talent overall (starters and reserves), the 2012 team might have had the best starting five, but the ’78 team might have the best chemistry.

Givens, Macy and Shilder (the Blonde Bomber) would have benefited greatly with a 3-point shot. And, Phillips, Robey and Lee might have been remembered as being more agile given room to roam underneath.

Put the ’96 team and the 2012 team in a time machine set for 1978 and see how they do. They wouldn’t have liked the idea of matching up against deliberate styles.

I would like to hear Coach Hall or perhaps then-UK assistant and current Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton’s assessment of how the ’78 team would fare against either club. Yes, those were different times, but all three teams produced the same results in the same dominating fashion.

 

UK gathers during pre-game prior to the win over Iowa State. (Clay Jackson photo)

UK gathers during pre-game prior to the win over Iowa State. (Clay Jackson photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Jim Host has been associated with the University of Kentucky basketball since 1954 and has known all of UK’s basketball coaches during that time. He opened Jim Host and Associates in 1972, put together the Kentucky Radio Network and has had a long standing business relationship with the National Collegiate Athletic Association since 197. He is credited with implementing the first collegiate corporate sports marketing program for the NCAA in 1984. Host handled all radio, publishing, marketing and corporate marketing for the NCAA for over 30 years.

Recently he was selected for induction in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame along with former UK coach Joe Hall. He was a driving force behind the Louisville Arena project that resulted in the KFC YUM Center that hosted NCAA Tournament games last week.

Host is an avid UK sports fan and shared his insights on John Calipari’s team — he says this is the best UK team he has seen — and more during last weekend’s NCAA event.

Question: Why do you think this is the best Kentucky team you have seen play?
Host: “First of all, I think it is the most talented one through seven that I have seen. Second, I think they play together as a team better than any team I have ever seen for that kind of talent. There may have been better teams like Rupp’s Runts, but they were not as talented as this team. I think Cal has done an amazing job of how he has been able to get them to play together. I think the only person on the team who was any issue was Terrence Jones and he is playing as well as a teammate of any of them. Cal has just done an amazing job with this team and it’s the best team, one to seven, that I have seen.”

Question: Isn’t that pretty rare to say great teammates on a team this talented?
Host: “Yes it is and I think in order to win it all they have to be a great team. I think the people will admit that the 1996 team that Rick (Pitino) had was a terrific bunch of individuals that played great together at the right time of year. But when you talk about Antoine Walker and some individual likes that, I never did see them as the total team like this team is. I have never seen a guy like (Anthony) Davis play the game like he has. When he gets knocked down, he just gets right back up and never frowns. You don’t see any of them with any kind of attitude problem on the court like you see a lot of kids have. That’s what I mean about this team.”

Question: How much have you enjoyed working with John Calipari?
Host: “I love working with him. But I have had a great relationship with all of them (UK coaches) with the exception of (Billy) Gillispie. I had no relationship with him. I loved working with Rick. I had a great relationship with him. I have known Cal since he was an assistant coach at Kansas. I have known him a long time. He is the best marketing guy I have ever been around. He is best at marketing what he does and what the team does. Have your ever seen anybody work closer with the university than what he tries to? Rick was a great marketer but he does it different. Cal is amazing at what he does.”

Question: How did you first meet Calipari way back then?
Host: “I have been involved with NCAA events, but Monte Johnson was the athletics director at Kansas and when he hired Larry Brown and Larry gave him a graduate assistant job at Kansas. So I met him through Monty Johnson who was a member of my Host Communications board for a number of years. That’s how I met him. I really like him personally and we usually have met every year at a Final Four and either have coffee together or something.
“When he was the coach of the New Jersey Nets and got fired, he called me and said, ‘What should I do?’ I said Cal why don’t you and I meet and let’s talk about broadcasting because I thought he would be terrific in broadcasting and he talked about that. But then R.C. Johnson, who I have known forever as AD at Temple before he went to Memphis, hired him to be the basketball coach at Memphis. R.C. called me about him and I said, ‘You won’t find a better person, better marketer than Cal. It’s really a long-time personal relationship we have had.”

Question: Does that mean you thought Calipari would be as good a fit as Kentucky as he seems to have been?
Host: “No question. I already knew it. I thought he would be the best ever. Now I tell you a guy that C.M. (Newton) and I interviewed before Rick was P.J. Carlesimo (of Seton Hall). When I took P.J. to the airport I thought he was going to take the job, but he was concerned about whether he would be a fit. I told him with his personality, he would be great fit and really sell in eastern Kentucky. He never really understood that. I felt he would sell even better than Rick, but of course Rick was one of the greats of all time with what he did. Cal is the same way. It takes a unique person to understand this program and what this program really is.”

Question: What does going into the Hall of Fame mean to you?
Host: “It’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. It is the culmination of a career. Something I did not expect. If anybody had told them this would happen, I would have told them the chances were 1,000 to one. They called me about it and I said, ‘You have got to be kidding me. You can’t have the right guy.’ They started ticking off all the reasons the award is given and I said I guess I understand it to a degree, but I don’t understand how you can equate me in the same league with Earl the Pearl (Monroe) and Patrick Ewing and people like that. I am going in with that class and I didn’t play the game like that.”

Question: Is it nice to be in the same Hall of Fame class with Joe Hall?
Host: “Of course it is. Joe and I started together at UK. My first team when I had the UK radio rights was Joe’s team when we went to the Final Four in 1975 and played UCLA in the championship. That was my first year, 1974-75. I had done play by play with coach (Adolph) Rupp back in the last 1950’s and 60’s. I knew all the people and had been associated with the program since 1954, so it is a culmination of a storybook career that if you really wanted to write something about someone who loves what they do, you are talking to somebody who has always loved what they do. I have an expression that I love what I do so much that I can’t sleep fast enough.”

Question: Did you still enjoy getting out to see games as much as ever?
Host: “What I am doing? I love people and the relationships and what this event is. This building was built for this event. I think this will be the first of many that will come here. Think what this means to Kentucky. Think what this means to the state in terms of what it means to the economy. This is like a Final Four atmosphere, maybe better, for first and second round games. That’s impressive.”

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For IPhones/IPads, and new for Android devices, the Catalist app by Larry Vaught is the best way to keep up with UK basketball. It's free!

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