Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Legend: Coach Adolph 'The Baron' Rupp

Coach Adolph F. "The Baron" Rupp
Sept. 2, 1901 - Dec.10, 1977
  • Overall Kentucky Record: 876-190
  • Years Coached UK: 1930-31 to 1971-72 (41 seasons)
  • Hometown: Halstead, Ks.
  • Alma Mater: Kansas (1923)
  • 4 NCAA Titles 1948,1949,1951,1958
  • 6 Final Fours
  • 1 NIT Title 1946
  • 1948 US Olympic Gold Medal
  • 6 Helms National Titles
  • 27 SEC Regular Season Titles
  • 13 SEC Tourney Titles
  • 5 Sugar Bowl Tournament Championships
  • 4 Time National Coach of the Year
  • Named Coach of the Century
  • Enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a Coach on April 13, 1969


In order to understand the Rupp legacy, the true meaning of Rupp to UK basketball, it’s important to go back to 1930. For anyone living at that time……there was no UK tradition in basketball… banners hanging anywhere in Alumni Gym. Then there arrived a new UK coach…..a 29 yr old young man who had played under the great

‘Phog” Allen at Kansas…..also, while at Kansas young Adolph had known Allen’s former coach…..none other then the inventor of the game of basketball, James Naismith.

Think of it, Adolph’s roots and knowledge of basketball can be traced to the inventor of the game of basketball! So, 1930 was a very special year in UK basketball as it represents the very beginning of UK’s tradition. Rupp immediately started winning at UK and UK was the Helms National Champion in his 3rd year with a 21-3 record. As the years passed from the 1930’s to the 1940’s…..UK basketball was achieving great things nationally with back to back NCAA championships occurring in 1947-48 and 1948-1949.

I was never fortunate enough to see the great Fabulous Five teams of the late 40’s nor did I ever see a game in Alumni Gym. My first encounter with UK basketball was in the early 50’s….I sold cokes and hot dogs in Memorial Coliseum and watched the great Hagan, Ramsay teams. One year I had season tickets and I was hooked…..UK basketball was in my blood. I remember with awe as I watched the Cats warm up drills……the crisp passing….the players cutting to the basket. The drills were well designed and the players executed them flawlessly as Rupp and Harry Lancaster watched from the sidelines. It was a thrill to watch them in action. For those of us who were fortunate enough to have watched the Cats play in Memorial Coliseum…..well it was so very special… was an incredible home court advantage……the crowds were magnificient. My memories go back to when at halftime and you went to the concourse….the smoke was so thick, with nearly everyone smoking, that your eyes burned and you could hardly see at times. That I don’t miss! A few years ago my wife and I were in Lexington and went to the UK scrimmage… had been many years since I had been in Memorial Coliseum and it brought back so many fond memories.

As the record books reveal, Adolph Rupp laid the foundation for UK basketball success from the very moment he arrived as coach in 1930 and year after year….decade after decade……Rupp built the UK program into a national juggernaut. Rupp’s accomplishment over a 42 year coaching career are truly incredible. A record of 876-190 for an amazing 82% winning %…..4 NCAA championships…..6 Final Fours….1 NIT championship( when winning the NIT was a very important achievement)…..1948 US Olympic Gold Medal…..6 Helms National titles……27 SEC championships (think of it….winning 27 out of 42 SEC championships)…..13 SEC Tourney titles……5 Sugar Bowl Championships…..a lot of UKIT Championships…..4 time National Coach of the Year.

Now much has been written regarding Adolph Rupp the coach and the man. As former players have said, Adolph was a very tough coach, very demanding and not always well liked….but, Rupp the coach was highly respected. His practices are said to have been like military boot camp. There is no question as to how well prepared and well conditioned UK teams were during the Rupp era. Rupp was obviously very passionate about winning and hated losing. It was this great passion for making UK basketball teams the very best they could be on the court…..his great attention to detail……the fact that Rupp teams were always extremely well schooled in the fundamentals of basketball and played tough man to man defense while playing the legendary fast break basketball that produced the great UK winning tradition. I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on what a great assistant coach Harry Lancaster was at UK and how important he was over many years to the success of the UK program. Throughout the Rupp era…..UK fans were blessed with many great and exciting teams. My oh my….the great players under Rupp were countless. Rupp knew talent and how to mold that talent. I never heard Rupp talk about his favorite team or teams….I’m sure he felt affection for all of them. However, I always had a feeling that the1966 team, Rupp’s Runts, were very dear to his heart. I’m sure the loss in the 1966 championship game was extremely painful to Rupp….not only because of his affection for them…..but, because he knew his career was nearing an end and he wanted to win another NCAA championship so very much.

One subject I am hesitant to bring up, but because it has been written about so often in recent years, I feel I must give my opinion. The issue of racism charges against Rupp. Jon Scott on his website gives a great deal of information regarding this subject for those who want to look further into this subject. My opinion, and I feel very strongly about this issue, is that Adolph Rupp was not a racist. Many former players such as Pat Riley, Larry Conley and others have said that they were not aware of any racist comments or attitudes from Rupp. Interestingly, all those who knew Rupp, whether it be former players or other coaches, such as Red Auerbach, saw nothing or heard nothing from Rupp to justify these racist charges. The racist charges have almost entirely come from columnists who never knew Rupp and only passed on false information from others who obviously had an agenda. As Larry Conley said…..UK had played a Michigan team with 4 black starters and had played other teams with black players. At the time the Texas Western game was played it was never looked upon by either team as 5 whites playing 5 blacks…….it was simply two great teams playing for the NCAA championship. Twenty five years later or thereabouts…..we start getting all these articles about the racial significance of the game……which I feel was totally false. In fact Loyola of Chicago had a mostly black team, I believe 4 starters, a few years earlier in the NCAA championship game. UK was obviously not the only all white team….as we all know if Duke had beaten UK then an all white Duke team would have faced Texas Western. The simple fact is that UK competed in the SEC and had to travel in the deep South were black players would not have been allowed in hotels or restaurants with the team…..Rupp knew they would face hostility… was a sad time in US history. Now I understand that some people can say “Well Rupp should have been more proactive in recruiting black players and led the way”. Maybe so, but there is a big difference between being proactive and being a racist! However, I truly feel he was worried about the safety of taking black players into the deep South. It saddens me to see the image of this great coach soiled by blatant lies and misinformation. Rupp was not a racist!

Rupp, like all of us, had flaws….he was far from perfect…..but, he was the coach who built the rock that the UK program sits on today. His coaching achievements are staggering. Now as the years fade from Rupp’s tenure as coach, more and more UK fans only know the name….not the man. As we all reflect on how and why we became UK fans……the vast majority of fans say because of my dad, grandfather, uncle or another loved one who passed on their love for UK basketball. My point is that the root of this love and passion for UK basketball can easily be traced back to one man……Adolph Rupp! However, it’s important to never forget that Adolph Rupp not only built the foundation, the corner stone if you will, of UK basketball success…..but his great success has made every coach who followed Rupp very much aware of the high expectations associated with being the coach of UK. From Joe B Hall on….every coach has been aware that UK basketball is very special and that they have the great responsibility of maintaining the greatness that Rupp built. Fortunately, UK has been blessed, for the most part, with coaches who have added to the Rupp Rock of UK basketball with additional NCAA championships.

Importantly, Rupp’s basketball legacy reaches far beyond UK basketball. Rupp had a huge influence on SEC basketball….forcing SEC schools to place greater emphasis on their basketball programs if they were to be competitive against UK. Always recognized as a football conference, the SEC made very positive strides forward in their basketball programs during the Rupp era. Of course, Rupp’s influence and legacy was national in it’s impact….many coaches throughout the nation were positively influenced from Rupp’s teachings. Rupp was always recognized as one of the all time greatest coaches. In addition, we have witnessed a number of former UK players under Rupp achieve past success in pro ball and many achieved successful careers in many fields. I’m sure the vast majority of these former players would point to their careers under Rupp as playing no small part in their success.

Adolph Rupp passed away nearly 30 years ago……I would hope that UK fans in the future would make sure they pass along to their sons and daughters exactly just how much Adolph Rupp meant to UK basketball.....make certain they know who is responsible for their love of UK basketball. Time marches on…….lest we never forget the great legacy of Adolph Rupp. UK fans….take pride when you walk in Rupp Arena……Thank you Coach Rupp....thank you for making all UK fans so very proud of UK basketball and may we carry that wonderful passion for UK basketball, as you did, forever in our hearts!

Written by: Lwcat WT Staff

For more articles on:

Coach Adolph Rupp Click Here

Adolph F. Rupp Dies; Tribute for Renowed Coach Scheduled For Tonite (Link)



Coach Rupp was known for his colorful comments on and off the court.

Coach Rupp Quotes

Rupp on winning
"I know I have plenty of enemies, but I'd rather be the most-hated winning coach in the country than the most-popular losing one."

Rupp on Recruiting, referring to the top of the door frame to his office
"If they don't bump their heads when they come in, I don't even bother shaking their hands."

Rupp on Dedication
"I don't care if your girlfriend leaves you or your pet rabbit dies. I just care that you produce for me on the basketball court."

Rupp on Opposing Fans
"The fans are real bad some places we play down south. They're worse than anywhere at Mississippi State. The last time we played down there, they'd put a dead skunk under my bench. I know boys will be boys. But most idiots be idiots?"

Rupp on the Media
"You darned sportswriters are all alike. Every time I come to Georgia, you misqoute me in the papers. You get the fans riled up with lies, and then they come out and boo me."

Rupp on Retirement
"If they don't let me coach, they might as well take me to the Lexinton cemetery."

More Rupp Qoutes
"I see no reason to end the basketball just so some of these schools can start spring football early...Someday they are going to wake up and realize that basketball is here to stay."

"If it doesn't matter wheather you win or lose, why do they keep score? I'm not engaged in a popularity contest, I want to win!"

"When a Kentucky baby is born his mother wants him to be president, like another Kentuckian,Abraham Lincoln. If not president, she wants him to play basketball for the University of Kentucky."

"I see no reason to end the basketball season just so some of these schools can start spring football practice early...Someday they are going to wake up and realize that basketball is here to stay."


Adolph Rupp was famously superstitious: The lucky brown suit and all. But one his prime superstitions was bobby pins. He believed if he could find one on the day of a game, Kentucky would win. Sometimes, his players tried to make sure coach found one. Before UK played in the 1958 Final Four in Freedom Hall, Vernon Hatton says he and Ed Beck dropped "eight or nine packages of bobby pins" in a area where Rupp was sure to find them. He did. "My gawd, boys," Hatton minics Rupp saying, " I don't even think we have to take the court tonight." Another time, Hatton says the Wildcats were in Gainsville, Fla., when they noticed their coach following closely behind an attractive blonde coed. To their amazement, the players heard their coach mouthing the words, "Shake it. C'mon, shake it." they were stunned. Says Hatton: "We were thinking, 'Why, you dirty old...'" Then the players realized what Rupp wanted shaken. A black bobby pin was about to fall from the women's long hair. If it did, in Rupp's world, it ensured a UK win.

Rupp as a college student

Rupp in Kansas Uniform

Coach Rupp on cover of Sports Illustrated

1960's Rupp in Sports Illustrated

1966 Kentucky Team NCAA Runner-Up
(From left) Larry Conley, Coach Adolph Rupp, Tom Kron, Thad Jaracz, Pat Riley and Louie Dampier after UK defeated Michigan 84-77 in the quarterfinals of the 1966 NCAA Tournament. "Rupp´s Runts" - as the team was commonly known - went on to defeat Duke in the semifinals before losing 72-65 to Texas Western in the NCAA championship game.

1968 Casey,Issel,Coach Rupp & Pratt

Rupp signs Payne
Coach Adolph Rupp (second from left) and UK assistant coach Joe B. Hall (right) watched as Tom Payne prepared to sign with the Cats and become the first black player in the history of the program in 1969. Payne averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game during his sophomore season before leaving UK for the pros.

1972 Coach Rupp's Last Year at Kentucky

1972 Rupp's Last Home Game

"Rupp heading to Locker room for his last pre-game chat at Memorial Coliseum prior to the Auburn game in 1972. UK won 102-67."

1972 Rupp waves Farewell to UK Fans

Rupp's Last Walk - AUTOGRAPH

"Blue Kentucky Thunder"

Coach Rupp's Grave
Adolph Rupp died Dec. 10, 1977, while the team he coached for 41 seasons was on its way to a 73-66 victory in Lawrence, Kan., playing in an arena named for the UK coach's mentor, against the school where he spent four years learning about basketball and life. "Daddy picked out that spot," says Rupp's son, Adolph "Herky" Rupp II. "His longtime assistant, Harry Lancaster, also is buried just a few feet away, which is fitting. "Daddy loved that spot because of a big tree there -- a big, shady oak tree.

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