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Basil Hayden

Basil hayden
Basil Hayden
Hometown (Last School)
Paris, Kentucky (Paris High School)
1919-20, 1920-21, 1921-22
May 19, 1899

Basil Hayden has the distinction of being Kentucky’s first All-American. Before Eddie Sutton went 13-19 in 1989, Hayden also had the distinction of being the coach with the last losing record at Kentucky before Adolph Rupp took over as head coach.

Basil Hayden was born Basil Ewing Hayden in Stanford, Kentucky, on May 19, 1899, to Joseph Wallace Hayden and Ann McKinney Brown.  He grew up in Paris, Kentucky, where it was in the sixth grade that he played basketball for the first time.  His mother wanted him to be a preacher, so he initially went to Transylvania.  He was a freshman teammate of Happy Chandler on the Transylvania baseball team.  After one year, he transferred to UK to study his new major, industrial chemistry.  

His UK playing career began in 1919 and concluded in 1922. Over those playing years, Hayden helped lead Kentucky to a record of 28 wins and 14 losses.  While at UK, he also played on the tennis team and threw the javelin, setting a school record with a toss of 163 feet and 3 inches.  He was also a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity.

In his first season, Hayden scored more than half of the team’s total points for coach George C. Buchheit.  Hayden was a key performer on the 1920-21 team that finished with a 13-1 record and won Kentucky’s first-ever tournament championship. He hit a crucial game-tying basket in the Cats’ 20-19 championship game win over Georgia in the 1921 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament. Hayden averaged 9.6 points a game for that club. A newspaper Hayden saved described the new hero:  “Hayden, the blond Apollo, the Kentucky thoroughbred if ever one stepped on the turf, has been a thorn in the side of Kentucky’s antagonists all during the tournament. Coach Steggemen (of Georgia) has watched all of Kentucky’s games and knows that danger lurks in Hayden. He has instructed his men to guard him as they would their own good names.”  He suffered a knee injury competing in the high jump prior to the 1921-22 season and played sparingly.  He still managed to average 5 points per game.

After graduating from UK, Hayden worked one summer for Dodge in Detroit. Homesickness brought him back to Kentucky, where he taught and coached at Clark County High and later got into the insurance business.  Hayden left the insurance firm in Richmond to become  Kentucky’s basketball coach.

On December 14, 1926, the Kentucky Board of Trustees appointed Hayden as head basketball coach at $300 a month for three months: December, January, and February.  His salary was paid from the funds of the Athletic Association.  His late appointment gave him only one week to prepare for the season.

That season, Basil’s only season as Kentucky coach, the Wildcats went 3-13.    The one-week pre-season was devoted to getting organized.  UK’s starters on opening night were all football players: Foster Helm at center; Clair Dees at back guard; Elmer “Baldy” Gilb at running guard; Ray Ellis and Paul Jenkins at forward.  The Cats lost their first game 48-10 at Cincinnati and never flirted with .500. UK lost eight of its first nine and 10 of its first 12.  Ray Ellis recalled later, laughing, “We just weren’t any good.” 

Kentucky went another six decades without another losing season.

In the course of his life, Hayden served in the army (World War I), taught school, sold insurance, did tax work, and was a bank officer for 23 years at National Bank and Trust in Paris, Kentucky, among other jobs. He retired in his 70s from the job of treasurer for the Interboard Council, Kentucky Conference of Methodist Church in Kentucky.

Hayden tried his hand at coaching one other time. When Kentucky Wesleyan College was in Winchester, he briefly coached the women’s team.  A player from that team, Mary, became his first wife. 

The University of Kentucky would retire a jersey in his honor in 1991.  

To help celebrate the opening of the UK basketball museum in 1999, Hayden was introduced at center court and made the Y in Kentucky during the Wildcats’ game against South Carolina.  He received a standing ovation from the crowd in Rupp Arena, where his retired jersey hangs.

Hayden passed away at the age of 103 on January 9, 2003.

Season Games Played Total Points
1919-20 12 133
1920-21 14 136
1921-22 13 64
Total 39 333

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