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Adolph Rupp

Adolph Friedrich Rupp (September 2, 1901 - December 10, 1977) was one of the greatest coaches in the history of American college basketball. Rupp won 875 games in 41 years of coaching, and set a remarkable standard of excellence. He was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on April 13, 1969.

Born in Halstead, Kansas, he played college basketball for the University of Kansas under the great coach Dr. Forrest "Phog" Allen from 1919 to 1923. Rupp went on to coach basketball in Kansas, Iowa and Illinois.

Rupp coached the University of Kentucky basketball team from 1930 to 1972. At Kentucky, he earned the title "Baron of the Bluegrass". Rupp was a master of developing local talent. He took more than 80 percent of his players from the hills of Kentucky and turned them into champions. Rupp possessed an intense desire to win and instilled that feeling in his players. He promoted a sticky man-to-man defense, and a relentless fast break offense that battered opponents into defeat.

His Wildcats teams won four NCAA championships (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), one NIT title in 1946, appeared in 20 NCAA tournaments and captured 27 Southeastern Conference titles. Rupp demanded 100 percent from his players at all times, pushing them to great levels of success.

Rupp's legacy has one major flaw: he was widely regarded as a segregationist, or at the very least unwilling to recruit black players. This reputation is not clearly supported by all available evidence and the subject remains controversial to this day. As a high school coach in Illinois before coming to Kentucky, Rupp had African American players on his teams. Many of Rupp's most trusted employees on his farms were African-American and many of those who knew Rupp during his life have insisted that Rupp was not a racist. Most of Rupp's coaching career was in the era of institutionalized segregation in the American South/ Rupp was among the first coaches in the two southern conferences, the SEC and ACC, to recruit African American players. Other colleges in other parts of the country had been using black players before the 1960s (e.g., Wilt Chamberlain at the University of Kansas), however, many other southern schools not only didn't have black players, but would refuse to play against schools that had a single black player on the roster. Rupp scheduled games against integrated teams since the 50's, and recruit African American players as early as 1964. The loss of the all-white Wildcats team in the 1966 NCAA finals to Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), under Don Haskins, who started five black players, was long after the fact held out as a sign of change in the game; most participants have publicly stated that nobody saw the game that way at the time. The Final Four that year also included another all-white team, Duke. Rupp was forced into retirement in 1972 after reaching age 70, at that time the mandatory retirement age for Kentucky state employees.

Twenty-four of his players earned All-American honors, seven won Olympics gold medals and 28 played professionally. A four-time Coach of the Year, Rupp established a winning tradition at Kentucky later achieved only by John Wooden at UCLA and Dean Smith at North Carolina. A little more than a year before his death, the Wildcats moved from their on-campus Memorial Coliseum to Rupp Arena, named after him, in downtown Lexington; the team continues to play there. The Adolph Rupp Trophy, named in his honor, has been awarded annually to the best white or black player in men's college basketball since 1972.

Rupp died at age 76 in Lexington, Kentucky. The University of Kentucky since 1976 has played its home games in Rupp Arena, named for the program's longtime coach.



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Last Updated May 2005
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