Former Kentucky basketball coach Joe B. Hall has died at 93, the program announced Saturday. Hall coached the Wildcats from 1972-85, leading the team to the 1978 national championship and a 297-100 mark over his 13 seasons. Before his promotion to head coach, he spent seven years as an assistant under the program's all-time wins leader Adolph Rupp.
Succeeding such a legend brought immense pressure for Hall, and the Cynthiana, Kentucky, native retired after his team was eliminated from the Sweet 16 in 1985. He was just 56 years old, but said he did not want to be an "old coach." Hall never coached again, though he remained a visible figure around the program in the years that followed.
Current Kentucky coach John Calipari posted a tribute to Hall on Twitter Saturday morning as the No. 18 Wildcats prepared to host No. 22 Tennessee at Rupp Arena.
"Coach Joe B. Hall – my friend, my mentor, and an icon in our state and in our profession – passed away this morning," Calipari wrote. "Joe B. Hall took over a program and carried on the winning tradition and legacy of excellence of Kentucky basketball. Coach Hall made it the job it is today with his hard work, his ingenuity and his great basketball coaching. Coach Hall always met me with a smile, including two days ago when I went to see him and hold his hand. He understood everything that was said, and as I prayed for him, he squeezed my hand tight. Coach Hall is beloved by everyone. What makes me happy on this extremely somber day is that before he left this earth, he knew how much all of us appreciated and loved him. I would ask that everyone keep him and his family in your prayers. I love you, Coach."
Hall played one season for Kentucky in the late 1940s, and eventually graduated from the school, but transferred to Sewanee for the rest of his playing career. He served as head coach at Regis University in Colorado and at Central Missouri before joining Rupp's staff as an assistant. He is widely credited with helping fully integrate Kentucky's program after Rupp's retirement.