Joe B. Hall, a 19-year-old college basketball coach who led Kentucky to a national championship season in 1977-78, died Saturday in Lexington, Ky. He was 93 years old.
The passing of the College Basketball Hall of Famer was announced by Kentucky’s John Calipari, as well as the Kentucky men’s basketball team:
Coach Joe B. Hall, my friend, my mentor and an icon in our state and in our profession, passed away this morning. Joe B. Hall took over a program and continued Kentucky basketball’s winning tradition and legacy of excellence. pic.twitter.com/QirdXnAeMH
— Juan Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 15, 2022
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of the great Joe B. Hall. Our hearts go out to the Hall family.
We love you Joe B. pic.twitter.com/SahjbGOexb
— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 15, 2022
Hall, a native of Cynthiana, Kentucky, was a former Kentucky basketball player; he was a member of Adolph Rupp’s 1948-49 national championship team before transferring to play for Sewanee. Although Hall exhausted his remaining eligibility playing for the Tigers, he did not graduate; he returned to Kentucky to finish his bachelor’s degree, graduating in 1955.
Hall began his coaching career at Regis University from 1959 to 1964, compiling a 57-50 record. He then spent a year coaching what was then called Central Missouri State, leading the Mules to a 19-6 record. After that season, he returned to Kentucky to serve as an assistant to Hall of Fame coach Adolph Rupp from 1965 to 1972. He took charge of the program in 1972-73, leading the Wildcats for 13 seasons.
Hall compiled a 297-100 record in 13 seasons at Kentucky, with his worst season coming in the second year of his tenure: the Wildcats went 13-13 and did not make the postseason, the only time in Hall’s career. He also enjoyed much success, winning eight SEC championships; 10 NCAA tournament berths; two NIT berths, including a championship in 1975-76, four trips to the Elite Eight; two trips to the Final Four; and the 1978 NCAA Tournament championship, the fifth in Kentucky program history and the first in 20 years.
In leading the Wildcats to the 1977-78 national championship, Hall became one of only three people in college basketball history to play for and coach a national championship team. He also led the Wildcats to a second-place finish in the 1975 NCAA Tournament, trailing only John Wooden’s UCLA team.
Hall coached seven players to earn All-America honors 11 times. Twenty-four of his players also played in the NBA.
Hall was a beloved figure in Kentucky, even after his retirement. He remained closely tied to the program, attending practices and attending home games at the Rupp Arena. He also hosted a radio show with former Louisville rival and basketball coach Denny Crum called the “Joe B. and Denny Show,” from 2004 to 2014. In 2012, Kentucky unveiled a statue of Hall outside Rupp Arena to commemorate his achievements in Kentucky.
His passing created an outpouring of well wishes and memorials on social media, not just from Kentucky basketball fans, but from the college basketball world at large:
BBN, no one gave their heart and soul to UKBB like Coach Hall. He loved the BBN and was a proud Kentuckian. An honor to play for him and I will miss my lifelong friend. He was the only friend I needed. Thank you coach and profession in Christ rest until we meet again ????
—Roger Harden (@HardenRoger) January 15, 2022
Joe B. Hall was the first Kentucky coach I ever met. That kid from western Kentucky didn’t realize that one day he would meet Coach Hall personally. He was a kind and grateful man who was given an almost impossible task and still succeeded. Rest easy, coach! #BBN
— Michael Eaves (@michaeleaves) January 15, 2022
I will never forget Coach Hall, who in his old age struggled to get up and walk, standing for over 8 minutes straight at my father’s funeral while sharing countless memories. He made the room roll with laughter as he shows @tbearup & @RexChapman. pic.twitter.com/yi8n82ikLw
—Ben Bearup (@TheAviationBeat) January 15, 2022
José @MrJoshHopkins And I spent some time with Coach Hall a couple of weeks ago. Very happy that I did. what a coach What a man. What a life.
The pride of Cynthiana, Kentucky. Rest in peace Coach… pic.twitter.com/jI5Uhh47RG
—Rex Chapman???????? (@RexChapman) January 15, 2022
Coach Joe B. Hall was not only a remarkable basketball legend, he was also a kind and generous leader who made an impact on his players and all who knew him. Britainy and I extend our deepest condolences to Coach Hall’s family as they mourn this heartbreaking loss. ^ AB
— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) January 15, 2022
Coach Hall is loved by all. What makes me happy on this somber day is that before he left this earth, he knew how much he was appreciated and loved by all of us. I ask everyone to keep him and his family in your prayers. I love you, coach. pic.twitter.com/hm7apfFQBU
— Juan Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) January 15, 2022
Coach Hall was one of the best people I have met in the UK. He was a great friend and defined a true legend who never saw himself in that light. My wife Allison shares his birthday and he would tell me to have the Rupp fans sing for her and Ellen Calipari instead of him. i will miss you coach https://t.co/0D76AMDBDV
— DeWayne Peevy (@BlueDemonsAD) January 15, 2022
RIP to the wonderful Joe B. Hall, who coached Kentucky in 1978 to an NCAA championship. When he retired, he became one of the UK’s best ambassadors and did a radio show with his old rival Denny Crum. Just a lovely man. He lived a great, long life.
—Michael DeCourcy (@tsnmike) January 15, 2022
God bless my friend Joe B Hall, always a devoted Kentucky resident with endless love for his family, his Kentucky Wildcats and all his opportunities to make others laugh. RIP, Trainers Room. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/NSI880D7zQ
— Terry Meiners (@terrymeiners) January 15, 2022