Steve Fitts of Jeffersonville is a frequent email correspondent, and had an interesting take on the parallels between Billy Gillispie and Joe B. Hall. I’m not old enough to remember these events well, but would love to hear from others who do.
Some interesting parallels exist between Billy Gillispie and Joe B. Hall in terms of their early UK coaching experiences. Both had a “fair to midlin'” first seasons, but both had lousy second seasons.
I was a teenager living in Lexington at the time of Joe B.’s second-season bust. There were bumper stickers saying “Joe Must Go!” One Lexington radio station took a poll in the summer of 1974 about who you’d rather see resign–Joe B. Hall or Richard Nixon. You guessed it! More Lexingtonians voted for Joe B. to resign that for Richard Nixon to resign.
The point it — Joe B. Hall was at least as unpopular as Billy Gillispie after his second season. But as we all know, Joe B. was able to turn the program around in a big way his third year by taking UK to the Final Four. Three years later — in Year 6 of his regime — Joe B. took them to the national championship.
Had Joe B. not turned around the program in Year 3, there likely would have never been a Year 4, 5, and national championship 6. Can Gillispie duplicate Joe B. Hall and execute a Year 3 turnaround? In my opinion, yes — but only if Meeks and Patterson return next year. One reason Joe B. was able to turn it around in Year 3 was that just about everybody returned from the prior team, so he had a veteran squad along with the nation’s top freshman class.
Even with an excellent group of freshman coming in, I don’t think Gillispie will have the horses to turn the program around next year if Meeks and Patterson don’t return. It those 2 do return, along with their other returning players and freshman class, I believe UK could be vastly improved next year. If Meeks and Patterson don’t return next year, fuhgetaboutit!
Won’t add much to this, except to flesh out the history. UK went 13-13 in Hall’s second season. Four of its top five scorers were juniors: Kevin Grevey (21.9 points per game), Bub Guyette (12.7), Jimmy Dan Conner (12.0), and Mike Flynn (11.5).
And Hall’s incoming recruiting class for the next season included Jack Givens, Mike Phillips, James Lee and Rick Robey. I believe that classifies as “help is on the way.”
In the sophomore year for that group, UK actually went to the NIT, too. But much of that was because Robey was injured in the season’s 12th game and missed the rest of the year. UK did win the NIT in 1975-76, its last year in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats were a top five team the next season, and, of course, won the national title with those guys were seniors.