BASKETBALL BEGAN AT KENTUCKY IN 1903 WHEN W.W.H. MUSTAINE GATHERED SOME students, collected $3 to pay for a ball and told the group to start playing. Not much is known about the first men who coached the Cats, and until Adolph Rupp arrived in '30, only four had lasted more than one season in Lexington. From that humble beginning has emerged one of the most successful basketball programs. Four of UK's coaches ( Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith) have won NCAA titles, a claim no other school can make. Those four also account for 85% of Kentucky's record 1,948 wins. Though Rupp is the clear leader in every statistical category, the three other championship coaches deserve special mention.
JOE B. HALL
UK CAREER: 1973-85
UK RECORD: 297-100
A NATIVE of Cynthiana, Ky., who played one season for Rupp in 1949, Hall thought he knew what to expect when he succeeded the Baron in 1972. He didn't. The pressure, real and imagined, was almost too much for Hall to bear. Upsetting top-ranked Indiana in the '75 NCAA Mideast Regional and advancing to the title game before losing to John Wooden's last UCLA squad helped keep critics at bay, but only after winning the '78 national championship did Hall finally rest easy in the seat made famous by Rupp. He took one more team to the Final Four, losing in the '84 semis, before retiring under pressure after the '84-85 season.
UK CAREER: 1990-97
UK RECORD: 219-50
THOSE WHO questioned whether Pitino would be a good fit at Kentucky didn't understand how much his style of play and self-confidence mirrored Rupp's. After leaving the New York Knicks in 1989 to rescue a program left in shambles by scandal and shackled by NCAA sanctions, the natty New Yorker needed only four seasons to get UK back into the Final Four. He coached the Wildcats to their sixth NCAA title in '96, returned to the championship game in '97 (losing to Arizona in OT) and recruited eight of the players who won the '98 title. Pitino coached three All-Americas, and eight of his Wildcats were drafted by the NBA.
UK CAREER: 1998-2007
UK RECORD: 263-83
THE FIRST African-American coach in the program's history, Smith made the mistake of winning the NCAA title in his first season. Inevitably it was all downhill from there. Although he developed teams that won their share of games against nonconference rivals Louisville and Indiana, consistently dominated the SEC (winning five regular-season titles) and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament six times, Smith never again took a team to the Final Four. He averaged nearly 27 wins at Kentucky, but the pressure of having to win it all became too much, and he left Lexington for Minnesota.