Joe B. Hall and John Calipari pose with the statue of Hall that was unveiled on Tuesday in front of the Joe Craft Center. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Joe B. Hall is one of the few people in the world that understands the enormity of the position John Calipari occupies. He intimately understand what it means to be the head coach of the men’s basketball program at the University of Kentucky and Calipari has turned to him for advice ever since Coach Cal got the job over three years ago.That kinship is the foundation of the friendship between the two men, but Hall went through something not even Calipari can understand. He had to replace the man whose name is now on the building where the Wildcats play their home games.”There are coaches in this profession that have to follow legends in their time: John Wooden, Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi…Phog Allen,” Calipari said. “The other guy was Adolph Rupp. No one that followed those other coaches won championships. No one.”Hall, of course, is the exception – having led UK to a national title in 1978 along with three Final Fours. The man who followed a coaching great is one himself and now there is a monument dedicated to him that instantly becomes a part of the tradition Rupp, Hall and most recently Calipari have helped build.On Tuesday, a statue modeled after Hall during his tenure as UK’s head coach from 1972-85 was unveiled in front of the newly opened Wildcat Coal Lodge. Created by J. Brett Grill, the sculpture captures Hall holding a rolled-up program as he famously did so often throughout his time as a coach. Hall – who owned a 297-100 record as UK’s head coach – was self-deprecating in accepting the honor.”No one has a speech for an unveiling of a statue of them,” Hall said.Joe Craft, chief executive officer of Alliance Resource Partners LP and part of the group that donated $7 million for the Wildcat Coal Lodge, helped conceive of the statue. Calipari, always conscious of UK’s history as well as those who authored it, ran with the idea.After the 400-pound statue was unveiled, Hall posed for pictures next to it with Calipari, UK President Eli Capilouto, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, former player Kyle Macy and anyone else who wanted to remember the day. The idea of the statue is that fans will be able to sit in the two bench seats next to it for pictures, but Hall joked they might find the real thing too.”I’ll be here every day if anybody didn’t get their picture,” Hall said.Hall’s sense of humor, per usual, was sharp at the ceremony, but he was also appreciative and humble. “A spectacular award that I don’t have words for,” Hall said. “I appreciate so much Joe Craft and his influence in this and John for carrying it out.”There’s clear affection between the two national champion coaches. Hall was instrumental in the effort to build the Wildcat Lodge, the predecessor to the new Wildcat Coal Lodge. Calipari has carried on Hall’s innovative style, and then some.”Coach Calipari is different sort of person, if you all haven’t caught that already,” Hall said. “For a guy that has ideas and carries them out, there is no one better, no one faster at making a decision and enlisting the help to get it done.”Hall and Calipari have something else in common: an awareness that Kentucky basketball isn’t Kentucky basketball without the fans. Even though ceremony was not highly publicized and the morning was a rainy one, a handful of fans made it to campus to pay tribute to Hall.”It’s unbelievable the support that a coach gets from you fans, how much that helps in recruiting, how much it helps in persuading the administration to back your program,” Hall said. “This is a program of the fans throughout this state, border to border.”During his tenure, Hall only brought those fans closer to the program they so love, building on the relationship that truly started under Rupp. And though Calipari praises Hall for successfully walking in the footsteps of a legend, Hall sees those footsteps as a big reason why he is being honored.”The achievements that I had at Kentucky were guaranteed by the tradition, the legacy that Coach Rupp left,” Hall said.