Joe B. Hall remembered as ‘a real competitor,’ Breakfast Club regular

·7 min read

Former Kentucky Coach Joe B. Hall’s death last weekend at age 93 surely evoked memories throughout the Big Blue Nation.

Here’s a personal favorite. After he retired in 1985, Hall would occasionally join me for lunch when I asked for help on a story. More than once, he used the occasion to complain anew about what he viewed as a grievous reporting misstep I had committed covering one of his UK teams.

At one lunch Hall asked if I had considered “meeting your maker someday” and having to explain these stories.

After I responded with a chuckle, Hall asked again. So, after a quick thought, I asked a question: Did Hall ever think that God had a special place for sportswriters?

To which, Hall said, “Oh, He does. He does” as he pointed downward.

Call waiting

Former Auburn coach Sonny Smith recalled being at a lighthearted roast with Joe B. Hall. The audience included such coaching colleagues as Hugh Durham, Wimp Sanderson and Joe Dean Jr.

As Hall spoke from the podium, the cell phone he had put in his shirt pocket began ringing.

This prompted Smith to stand and tell everyone in the audience there was no need to see if it was his or her phone ringing.

“Because Joe gets all the calls in the SEC,” Smith remembered quipping.

Hall appreciated the friendly jab.

“He brought it up every time we saw him,” Smith said. “We were busting each other. We were good friends. And he was a real competitor.”

‘The Breakfast Club’

During his time as UK coach and in retirement, Joe B. Hall regularly ate breakfast at Wheeler Pharmacy. The regulars referred to themselves as “The Breakfast Club.”

In remembrance of Hall this past week, the pharmacy kept the seat he sat at empty and offered customers a 20-percent discount on coffee and breakfast items.

“I just felt it’d be a nice tribute,” owner Claire Wheeler Lewis said.

On one occasion, John Calipari arrived with an ESPN crew. When Calipari asked how UK’s twin towers lineup featuring Sam Bowie and Melvin Turpin worked, Hall used ketchup and mustard bottles to show the player movement.

Said store manager Stuart Wheeler, “for weeks and months, we had people come in and ask where the mustard and ketchup bottles were.”

Jim Hanna recalled the idea for the radio show Hall co-hosted with Denny Crum originating at the pharmacy. As a guest on the radio show co-hosted by former coaches Wimp Sanderson and Sonny Smith, Hall sat at a nearby booth. As Hall talked, Breakfast Clubber Dick Robinson took a napkin and wrote on it: the Joe B and Denny Show.

Former UK basketball coach Joe B. Hall was the “Y” during a timeout against North Carolina on Dec. 5, 2009, at Rupp Arena.
Former UK basketball coach Joe B. Hall was the “Y” during a timeout against North Carolina on Dec. 5, 2009, at Rupp Arena.

In lieu of flowers

Joe B. Hall’s family asked that memorial contributions be made to Crestwood Christian Church, (1882 Bellefonte Dr., Lexington, KY 40503) or the Lexington Humane Society (1600 Old Frankfort Pike, Lexington, KY 40504) or Bluegrass Care Navigators (1733 Harrodsburg Road, Lexington, KY 40504).

‘A fine line’

As of Friday, stats savant Ken Pomeroy rated Alabama’s non-conference as the most challenging played by SEC teams and the 11th most challenging among Division I teams. It’s only going to get more challenging soon.

The Tide earlier beat Gonzaga and Houston, teams that were ranked No. 1 and No. 10 in The Associated Press Top 25 poll this past week.

Yet those seem to be relatively “buy” games considering what’s ahead for Alabama. In an eight-day period beginning Jan. 29, the Tide will play current No. 5 Baylor in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, then play at current No. 2 Auburn three days later and then play current No. 12 Kentucky four days after that.

In the preseason, Coach Nate Oats said of scheduling, “It’s a fine line. You want to be exposed, but you don’t want to lose a bunch of confidence with your guys.”

Only Texas A&M (No. 326) and Ole Miss (317) had a lower non-conference strength of schedule than Kentucky (311). UK’s rating figures to get a boost with the game Saturday at Kansas, which had a NET rating of No. 7 as of Friday.

Drawing charges

More than a few UK fans booed each time Tennessee’s John Fulkerson touched the ball in last Saturday’s game. That presumably was a reaction to his ability to draw charges or flop, depending on your point of view.

With that still fresh in mind, Texas A&M keeps track of charges drawn. Going into the game against UK, the Aggies had drawn 25 charges.

Andre Gordon led the way with nine charges drawn. Next was Manny Obaseki with five. Henry Coleman III and Hassan Diarra had drawn three each, while Quentin Jackson had drawn two.

Players having drawn one charge were Ethan Henderson, Wade Taylor IV and Marcus Williams.

For every charge drawn, an A&M player receives a pair of socks and a screen shot of the play is printed out and posted on the team’s “charge wall” in the film room.

UK was called for only one charge: by Davion Mintz late in the first half.

Drawing viewers

The Kentucky-Auburn game Saturday prompted comparisons to the Tennessee-Memphis game of Feb. 23, 2008. That showdown drew 5.28 million viewers, which remains the second-largest viewership for any game televised by ESPN.

The record for ESPN is 5.61 million viewers for the Duke-North Carolina game of March 8, 2008.

As for this season, Gonzaga’s game against Duke on Nov. 26 drew an audience of 2.8 million viewers on ESPN. That’s the largest audience for a college basketball game on any network since March 9, 2019, when Duke at North Carolina and Michigan at Michigan State drew larger audiences. Both were televised by ESPN.

The Kentucky-Duke game to start this season drew an audience of 1.8 million viewers, ESPN said.

Shooting threes

Arkansas missed all 11 of its three-point shots while beating South Carolina 75-59 on Tuesday. That ended the Razorbacks’ streak of making at least one three-point shot at 1,092 games. That streak began on Jan. 7, 1989, and was the third longest active streak.

Going into this weekend, the three longest active streaks belonged to UNLV (1,145 games), Duke (1,131) and Western Kentucky (1,088).

Princeton (974 games) and UNLV are the only Division I teams that have made at least one three-point shot in every game since the rule went into effect in the 1986-87 season.

Missing in action

Seven Kentucky players have missed a combined total of 32 games this season because of injury or illness. That includes CJ Fredrick sitting out the season because he needed preseason surgery to repair his left hamstring. There’s also Sahvir Wheeler (two games because of a neck injury), Jacob Toppin (four games, shoulder injury), Lance Ware (three games, ankle injury), Dontaie Allen (one game, knee strain), Davion Mintz (three games, illness) and Keion Brooks (one game, illness).

Of course, Kentucky isn’t the only team that has had to deal with injury or illness.

Florida “big” Colin Castleton did not play against Mississippi State on Wednesday. He injured a shoulder in practice the day before.

Of the injury, Florida Coach Mike White said, “It’s significant.”

Castleton was averaging 15.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks.

LSU’s loss to Alabama on Wednesday was the third straight game Xavier Pinson missed because of a sprained knee. He averages 10.9 points and a team-best 4.6 assists.

And LSU’s second-leading scorer, Darius Days, sprained an ankle against Alabama.

Said Coach Will Wade: “When we’re at full strength and we get everybody back healthy, we’re going to be one tough opponent.”

Belated Happy birthday

To Jay Shidler. He turned 64 on Jan. 15.

Happy birthday

To Tyler Herro. He turned 22 on Thursday. …To former Alabama player and coach Mark Gottfried. He turned 58 on Thursday. … To Rupp’s Runt Larry Conley. He turned 78 on Saturday. … To Perry Stevenson. He turns 35 on Sunday (today). … To former Tennessee coach Kevin O’Neill. He turns 65 on Monday. … To Chris Mills, who posted the first triple-double in Kentucky basketball history (19 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Austin Peay on Dec. 27, 1988). He turns 52 on Tuesday.

Yes, Joe B. Hall was keeper of the flame, but he deserves credit for much more

‘I was dreading this day.’ Joe B. Hall remembered by his Kentucky Wildcats family.

‘The defender of the program.’ Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall dies at 93.

Only family members will attend memorial service for Joe B. Hall