This past Wednesday, retired Kentucky Wildcats coach Joe B. Hall did a phone interview with Wildcat Blue Nation.
Daniel Solzman: Coach Hall, thanks for joining Wildcat Blue Nation today. How are things treating you in Lexington?
Joe B. Hall: Beautiful. Beautiful fall day. It’s just gorgeous. Great to be an American.
Daniel Solzman: You’ve been sitting courtside at Rupp Arena for several years now. What’s been the most impressive thing that you have seen out of this year’s squad?
Joe B. Hall: I’ve been to several practices and I’ve been impressed with their work ethic with the way they have made progress. Then in the game they played last night, I didn’t recognize that D. I think they had—what they call in coaching is slippage—between practice time and game time, freshmen on the road for the first time have a tendency to forget everything they’ve learned. They just reverted back to AAU and high school ball. But secondhand, they rewrite themselves and demonstrated that they were as good we had hoped. They will be a team that makes practice improvements and will be a great team by the end of the year but right now, they’re still hung up on old habits and haven’t really adopted the tempo necessary in all phases of the game.
Daniel Solzman: Is there a player that Julius Randle reminds you of?
Joe B. Hall: Yeah. This is a player that’s unique in some ways. I’ve never seen anyone have a better motor maybe like Kenny Walker. I thought Kenny gave the kind of effort and had great finesse when you got the ball inside to him. I’ve seen the same things in Randle. I see a great work ethic. I see a tremendous competitiveness. When he finds his game—he’s already got a good game but he’s getting better and better.
Daniel Solzman: Had you been in the locker room, what would you have told the Cats following last night’s loss to Michigan State?
Joe B. Hall: I would say we’re going to have a very serious film session. I would get both the practice film, where I had taught them to convert defensively, and then show them what they did in the game. Coach Calipari had worked diligently in practice in getting them aware of how they had to convert defensively to stop Michigan State’s offensive fast break. They worked on it. Coach would run a pattern half court. Then after they scored or the defense got the ball, they would race back defensively. They did none of that in the game. What I’d say is I didn’t recognize them in that first half after seeing what Coach Cal taught in practice. They did none of it. They ran their offense by clogging up the middle, not keeping the floor spread. They tried to dribble when there were two opponents. They created too many turnovers from lack of making the proper decisions. They did so many things good but they didn’t give the defensive effort and the hustle that I’d seen them practice. Second half, they came out with a different defensive attitude and that carried over to the offensive. After being down by 15, they demonstrated what kind of team they can be. So it was very encouraging to see them come out and create their adherence or recognition of what they learned in practice.
Daniel Solzman: When it comes to coaching, what is the greatest piece of advice that Coach Rupp gave you?
Joe B. Hall: I think you go into every game with confidence that you feel like you can win and you have the assurance that if you play hard, reflect what you learned in practice, you can be victorious. I think Coach instilled a lot of confidence in his teams that they were the best. Every game they went into, they were prepared and what they learned, they would be victorious.
Daniel Solzman: When you coached the Cats, is there any recruit that you really wanted but missed out on?
Joe B. Hall: Many of them. You don’t get everybody you want. There are other good programs and there are different attractions. Different kids. Certainly the locale, closeness of home. The tradition of your school. The schedule that you play. There are so many things that go into recruiting. All coaches are aware of that. They try and create an attractive program that will attract these kids. You can’t get involved.
Daniel Solzman: What was your reaction when you found out you were elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012?
Joe B. Hall: Well, you just can’t imagine how you feel to be associated at the level with all the great players and coaches that have achieved that honor. It was very humbling. There are so many people to thank who contributed to that: the players, your assistant coaches, your administration, the foundation that was built at Kentucky by Coach Rupp. What an opportunity to coach at a school that gives you the tools and has the tradituon to attract good players. There’s so many things that go into making your career a success. It’s not all about you.
There have been how many coaches win the national championship at Kentucky. There’s Coach Rupp, myself, Coach Pitino, Coach Tubby Smith, and now Coach Calipari. I hope I haven’t left anybody out but it’s pretty significant that that many coaches can win at the same program. It speaks well for the program and the opportunity that the administration, the facilities, the assistant coaches, the support of the fans. It all goes into building that kind of program.
Daniel Solzman: Thanks again for joining Wildcat Blue Nation and keep up the great work on the radio show!
Joe B. Hall: Love it. Thank you much.