Since its beginning in 1903, the University of Kentucky basketball program has amassed 1,948 wins and only 608 losses (76.2% winning percentage).
These impressive numbers are very much a part of the tradition and glory that surround the Kentucky program. However, just as much a part of this tradition are the 20 men who have guided UK's basketball teams through 104 seasons. Records indicate the first of these men was W.W.H. Mustaine, who in 1903 called together some students, took up a collection totaling $3 for a ball and told them to start playing.
Since then, 19 other men have tried their hand at coaching the Cats, with the most successful coaches becoming the most well known. The late Adolph Rupp, who guided the Wildcats to 876 wins and four NCAA titles, is the second winningest coach in the nation. Rupp's record was finally broken by North Carolina's Dean Smith 25 years after Rupp's retirement in 1972.
With Joe B. Hall's title in 1978, Rick Pitino's crown in '96 and Tubby Smith's trophy in '98, four UK coaches have led the Wildcats to NCAA championships. No other school in Division I college basketball can claim that distinction.
1 Basketball at UK reportedly started when W.W.H. Mustaine called
together some students, took up a collection totaling $3 for a ball and told
them to start playing. There was no official coach from 1903 until 1910. Managers
ran the team.
UK Record: 876-190 (82.2%), 41 years - 1931-72
Alma Mater (Year): Kansas (1923)
Hometown: Halstead, Kan.
Born: Sept. 2, 1901
Died: Dec. 11, 1977 (age 76)
A former UK Media Guide began, "In the storied land of Kentucky Colonels, there dwelled but one Baron, a man of consummate pride and a molder of powerful teams which for more than four decades made the name University of Kentucky synonymous with the game of basketball."
Tutored by the great Phog Allen at Kansas and a student of the game under Dr. James Naismith, Rupp learned his craft at an early age. After leaving the high school ranks in Freeport, Ill., to take the UK job in 1930, the "man in the brown suit" becamse the winningest coach in all of college basketball. He was an innovator of the fast break, a trademark of the Wildcats even today.
To become the winningest coach in his sport, Rupp passed his mentor, Coach Allen, on March 12, 1966, with his 747th victory against Dayton in the Mideast Regional. He achieved the top ranking when he passed Western Kentucky's E.A. Diddle with victory No. 760 on Feb. 18, 1967, at Mississippi State.
He finished with 876 wins when he retired in 1972, a mark that stood for 25 years until North Carolina's Deam Smith moved ahead in 1997.
Among the many UK victories were four NCAA titles (1948, '49, '51 and '58), one Olympic Gold Medal (1948), one NIT Championship (1946), 27 Southeastern Conference titles and his Wildcats were voted No. 1 in the final polls on six different occasions.
Rupp coached some of America's best - Sale, Beard, Groza, Hagan, Ramsey, Cox, Hatton, Nash, Riley and Issel. Twenty-three of his Cats were voted All-Americans 35 times and 52 players were honored 91 times as All-SEC performers.
His teams were unmatched in league play, earning a 397-75 (84.1%) record against SEC competition. In the conference tournament, Rupp's Wildcats were 57-6, winning 13 titles in 19 appearances.
Before the end of his 42-year career, the four-time National Coach of the Year was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1969. Rupp also earned SEC Coach of the Year honors on seven occasions.
UK Record: 297-100 (74.8%), 13 years - 1973-85
Overall Record: 373-156 (70.5%), 19 years
Alma Mater (Year): Kentucky (1955)
Hometown: Cynthiana, Ky.
Born: Nov. 30, 1928
Joe B. Hall, who grew up just 20 minutes north of the University of Kentucky campus in Cynthiana, had the unenviable task of following the legendary Adolph Rupp, who was forced to retire at age 70. But Hall, the former Rupp assistant, met the challenge head on, coaching three teams to the Final Four (1975, '78 and '84) and winning the 1978 NCAA Championship, the school's fifth title and first in 20 seasons.
Hall began his association with Kentucky as a student-athlete during the "Fabulous Five" era. He played one year of junior varsity and one year of varsity basketball before transferring to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he finished his eligibility and set a single-game scoring record. Following his college career, Hall toured with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1951, but later returned to UK and completed his degree requirements.
His coaching career began at Shepherdsville (ky.) High School in 1956. It continued on to Regis College in Denver, where he spent five years (57-50 record), and Central Missouri State, where he recorded a 19-6 mark in one season before returning to UK as an assistant to Rupp on July 1, 1965.
As the UK head coach, Hall won National Coach of the Year honors in 1978 and four SEC Coach of the Year awards. He had seven players win All-America honors 11 times and nine Wildcats were voted All-SEC on 18 occasions.
Hall's squads recorded a 172-62 (73.5%) record vs. SEC competition during the regular season, winning eight SEC titles in 13 seasons and one league tournament championship in six tries.
While Coach Rupp witnessed 37 of his players drafted by the NBA, Hall saw 23 players drafted during his 13-year tenure, five in the first round.
Retired, Hall still resides in Lexington.
UK Record: 88-39 (69.3%), 4 years - 1986-89
Alma Mater (Year): Oklahoma A&M (1958)
Hometown: Bucklin, Kan.
Born: March 12, 1936
Known for his reputation of building teams from scratch, Eddie Sutton left Arkansas and came to Kentucky with the cupboard far from empty. With returning All-American Kenny Walker anchoring the paint, Sutton's first Wildcats team was his best, rolling to a 32-4 record in 1985-86 and a berth in the Elite Eight. His Wildcats were third in the final polls, finished 17-1 in SEC play and rolled to the school's 36th league championship. All this after most prognosticators picked the Cats for a third-place finish.
For UK's performance, Sutton was named National Coach of the Year and SEC Coach of the Year in 1986.
Sutton battled through the 1987 season, as injuries depleted the Wildcats' roster to only seven scholarship athletes. But in his third year, UK bolted to a 10-0 start with wins over Indiana and Louisville to earn a No. 1 ranking. The Cats were crowned SEC champs in both the regular season and postseason but fell to Villanova in the Southeast Regional final, 80-74.
Following the 1988 season, Sutton's reign came under siege as rules violations were discovered in the Kentucky basketball program. The embattled coach completed his UK career with a 13-19 record in 1989, the school's first losing season since 1927. He resigned his post following the season, and after leaving basketball for a year, returned to Oklahoma State where he is still head coach.
UK Record: 219-50 (81.4%), 8 years - 1990-97
Overall Record (College): 352-124 (73.9%) - 15 years
Alma Mater (Year): Massachusetts (1974)
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Born: Sept. 18,1952 Promising to win right away, the 36-year old coach from the New York Knicks accepted the challenge of rebuilding the Kentucky basketball dynasty.
Pitino came into UK with impressive credentials, having rebuilt Boston U., Providence and the Knicks. His first UK team, "Pitino's Bambinos," shocked the college basketball world by defeating Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Jackson and the No. 9-ranked LSU Tigers in Lexington en route to a surprising 14-14 record in 1989-90.
It was a glimpse into the future. The following year, UK finished with the best record in the SEC. Then in 1992, fresh off NCAA probation, the "Unforgettables" took eventual national champion Duke into overtime of the East Regional before falling 104-103 in what many have labled "the greatest college basketball game ever played."
In 1993, with Jamal Mashburn leading the charge, UK advanced to the Final Four for the first time in nine years, losing to Michigan in overtime. After an Elite Eight finish in '95, Pitino's squad became the team to beat in '96. Highlights included the school's first league championship in 10 seasons, a 27-game win streak, a top-three ranking nearly the entire season, and the crowning jewel, the school's sixth NCAA title.
After UK lost four players to the NBA Draft, Pitino's task of defending the national championship became more difficult after star-guard Derek Anderson severely injured his knee during the '97 season. But the Cats wouldn't fold, rolling to the title game before losing to Arizona in overtime.
Along the way, Pitino won five of six SEC Tournament Championships, two ECAC Holiday Classics, the Maui Invitational and the Great Alaska Shootout. He had a 104-28 record vs. SEC teams, winning two league crowns, and an amazing 17-1 record in the SEC tourney.
He coached three All-Americans and eight All-SEC performers. The NBA drafted eight of his Wildcats, six in the first round, including three lottery picks.
Following the national runner-up trophy in 1997, the former point guard at UMass left UK for the challenge of rebuilding the NBA's Boston Celtics. In March of 2001, he took over as head coach at the University of Louisville.
UK Record: 263-83 (76.0%), 10 years - 1998-2007
Overall Record (College): 387-145 (72.7%) - 16 years
Alma Mater (Year): High Point (N.C.) (1973)
Hometown: Scotland, Md.
Born: June 30, 1951
After arriving in Lexington in 1997, Smith led Kentucky to one national championship, five SEC crowns and five SEC Tournament titles, with six Sweet 16 finishes in his ten seasons.
Over his 16 seasons as a head coach, the 55-year-old has had 14 consecutive 20-win seasons. In 2005, he joined Roy Williams, Nolan Richardson, Denny Crum and Jim Boeheim as the fifth head coach to win 365 games in 15 seasons or less. Smith's career record is now 387-145, and his .727 winning percentage is eighth among active coaches entering the 2007-08 season.
He totaled 100 wins quicker than any other Wildcat coach except Hall of Famer Adolph Rupp, reaching the plateau in 130 games. After taking over the UK program, he won 79 percent of his games despite playing a schedule that annually ranks among the nation's best.
Even more impressive, Smith averaged nearly 27 wins per season at Kentucky. In the SEC Tournament, he's 20-5 at UK, and he has won a league championship seven times in his 16 years as a head coach.
Smith left UK in spring of 2007 to take the head coach position at the University of Minnesota.
UK Record: 40-27 (59.7%), 2 years - 2008-2009
Overall Record (College): 140-85 (62.2%) - 7 years
Alma Mater (Year): Texas State (1983)
Hometown: Graford, Texas
Born: November 7, 1959
On April 6, 2007, Billy Gillispie was introduced to a crowd of more than 4,000 fans at a pep rally announcing his hiring as the 21st coach in UK Basketball history. Prior to coming to Lexington, the Graford, Texas native was honored as his conference's Coach of the Year four times, doing so three times in the Big 12 at Texas A&M and once in the Western Athletic Conference at UTEP. In addition, Gillispie was a finalist for the 2007 Naismith National Coach of the Year and Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year.
After starting out the 2008 season 6-7 in pre-conference action, the Wildcats caught fire and posted a 12-4 mark in league play, including wins over No. 3 Tennessee and No. 12 Vanderbilt resulting in Gillispie being named SEC co-Coach of the Year by league coaches. The honor marked the fifth straight season, Gillispie received his league's coach of the year award. The Cats in-conference heroics helped them secure their NCAA record 49th NCAA Tournament berth.
In two years at UK, Gillispie posted a 40-27 record (20-12 in the SEC) while being named the 2008 SEC Co-Coach of the Year.