Alma Mater (Year):
|876-190 (82.2%), 42 years
Sept. 2, 1901
Dec. 11, 1977 (age 76)
“In the storied land of Kentucky Colonels, there dwelled but one Baron, a man of consummate pride and a molder of powerful teams which for more than four decades made the name University of Kentucky synonymous with the game of basketball.”
Rupp was born outside Halstead, Kansas, to Mennonite German immigrants, the fourth of six children. He grew up on a 173-acre farm which his father Heinrich homesteaded. After his father’s death in 1910, Rupp’s oldest brother Otto took over farming responsibilities. As a youngster, Rupp worked on the farm and attended a school in a one-room school house in the country. He first became interested in the sport of basketball at the age of six when Halstead won the first of two consecutive Kansas state high school titles. According to interviews, he and his brothers stuffed rags into a gunnysack which his mother sewed up to use as a basketball on the family farm. Later, after growing to a sturdy 6-foot-2, Rupp was a star on his Halstead High School team, averaging over 19 points a game in both his junior and senior years. Rupp also served as team captain and unofficial coach.
After high school, Rupp attended the University of Kansas from 1919–1923. He worked part-time at the student Jayhawk Cafe to
help pay his college expenses. He was a reserve on the basketball team under legendary coach Forrest “Phog” Allen from 1919 to 1923. Assisting Allen during that time was his former coach and inventor of the game of basketball, James Naismith, who Rupp also got to know well during his time in Lawrence. In Rupp’s junior and senior college seasons (1921–22 and 1922–23), Kansas (KU) had outstanding basketball squads. Later, both of these standout Kansas teams would be awarded the Helms National Championship, recognizing the Jayhawks as the top team in the nation during those seasons.
Tutored by the great Phog Allen at Kansas and a student of the game under Dr. James Naismith, Rupp learned his craft at an early age. After leaving the high school ranks in Freeport, Ill., to take the UK job in 1930, the “man in the brown suit” became the winningest coach in all of college basketball. He was an innovator of the fast break, a trademark of the Wildcats even today.
Rupp went on to become the winningest coach in his sport. He passed his mentor, Coach Allen, on March 12, 1966, with his 747th victory against Dayton)n in the Mideast Regional. He achieved the top ranking when he passed Western Kentucky’s E.A. Diddle with victory No.760 on Feb. 18,1967, at Mississippi State.
Rupp finished with 876 wins when he retired in 1972, a mark that stood for 25 years until North Carolina’s Dean Smith moved ahead during the 1997 season. Rupp is currently fourth (behind Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith) in total victories by a men’s NCAA Division I college coach. Rupp is also second among all coaches in all-time winning percentage (.822), trailing only Clair Bee.
At Kentucky, he earned the titles “Baron of the Bluegrass” and “The Man in the Brown Suit” (Rupp always wore a brown suit to games). Rupp was a master of motivation and strategy, often using local talent to build his teams. In fact, throughout his career, more than 80% of Rupp’s players came from the state of Kentucky. Rupp promoted a sticky man-to man defense, a fluid set offense, perfect individual fundamentals, and a relentless fast break that battered opponents into defeat. Rupp demanded 100% effort from his players at all times, pushing them to great levels of success.
Rupp’s Wildcat teams won four NCAA championships (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), one National Invitation Tournament (NIT) title
in 1946, appeared in 20 NCAA tournaments, had six NCAA Final Four appearances, won five Sugar Bowl tournament championships, captured 27 Southeastern Conference regular season titles, and won 13 Southeastern Conference tournaments. Rupp’s Kentucky teams also finished ranked #1 on six occasions in the final Associated Press college basketball poll and four times in the United Press International (Coaches) poll. In addition, Rupp’s legendary 1966 Kentucky squad (nicknamed “Rupp’s Runts”) finished second in the NCAA tournament and Rupp’s powerful 1947 Wildcats finished second in the NIT. Further, Rupp’s 1933 and 1954 Kentucky squads were awarded the Helms National Championship.
Rupp coached some of the nation’s best – Sale, Beard, Groza, Hagan, Ramsey, Cox, Hatton, Nash, Riley and Issel. In all, Rupp coached 32 All-Americans, chosen 50 times, 52 All-SEC players, chosen 91 times, 44 NBA Draft Picks, 2 National Players-of-the-Year, 7 Olympic Gold Medalists, and 4 Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame members.
Before the end of his 42-year career, the four-time National Coach of the Year was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1969. Rupp also earned SEC Coach of the Year honors on seven occasions.
Rupp died at age 76 in Lexington, Kentucky, on December 10, 1977, on a night that Kentucky defeated his alma mater, Kansas, at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas. The game that night was promoted as “Adolph Rupp Night”. He is buried inLexington Cemetery.