33 Linville Puckett

Hometown (Last School)
Winchester, KY (Clark County)
1953-54, 1954-55
July 27, 1933

1954-55: (Quit mid-season in disagreement with Rupp over training rules)

From the 1955 University of Basketball Media Guide:

A late-season headliner who started the final seven games and proved a vital cog in the Wildcats’ attack in the latter stages of the highly successful 1953-54 campaign, Puckett is expected to develop into one of Kentucky’s top offensive threats this season. The 6-foot ace looked very impressive in pre-season practice sessions and led many cage experts to expect stellar play from him before the present season is very old. The three-time All-State star of Clark County’s state champions is rated as one of the craftiest passers in the game and is also a standout on defense. Puckett developed well with each game last season and fits almost perfectly into the style of play that the Wildcats employ. He has proven himself to possess plenty of scrap and hits exceptionally well close to the basket. He with unusual accuracy on his set shot and has developed a good one-hand push shot. Puckett set a Coliseum record last year against Mississippi State when he connected on a 53′ 6″ shot and still holds the state high school tournament record for the most points scored in a single game – 47 in the 1952 meet.

From Wildcats:  Where Have You Gone? by Greg Doyel

Would he have been another All-American? Maybe, maybe not. Because there is a question but not an answer, Linville Puckett remains—more than 50 years after he started on the Wildcats perfect team of 1954-an unsolved mystery in Kentucky basketball lore.

He doesn’t remain bitter over his abrupt, midseason departure in 1955. Well, not more than a little. We’ll get to that in a minute. Puckett retired in December 2003 from the Department of Transportation, where he worked in vehicle registration, and now he gives his time to his wife and their three children and four grandchildren. His family boards horses, and one of his sons is remodeling a home. All of that keeps Puckett busy. Too busy, he jokes.

“I told my wife I’d rather go back to work,” Puckett says. “It wasn’t as hard when I was working.”

Looking back at his days at Kentucky? That can be hard. Puckett was a basketball hero at Clark County High, leading legendary coach Letcher Norton’s 1951 team to a state championship. Puckett scored 47 points in a Sweet 16 tournament game, breaking future teammate Cliff Hagan’s record of 41. Going to Kentucky, starring for Kentucky, was the next logical step for Puckett. He did go to Kentucky. and he did play for Adolph Rupp, but he never became the star he could have been. Nighttime was his favorite time, and while Rupp wanted his boys in bed, Puckett preferred a place called The Palms. It was a bar. “I never played hung over,” he says. ‘But I liked my beer—yeah.”

Still, Puckett talks about his days at and beyond with fondness. He played one season at as a transfer and probably had a future in the NBA, but the wasn’t paying much in those days so he quit the game to become pan-owner of his old campus hangout. The Palms.

Puckett didn’t have any money for that business venture, but he says he didn’t need any money. The Palms’ owner wanted the gregarious Puckett badly enough to give him a percentage without a down payment. Six months later the owner died, and within two years Puckett was the principal owner. He was 24.

Puckett proved to be quite the businessman, luring big-time acts to his place for weeknight showings. Puckett says he would get Conway Twitty or Jerry Lee Lewis or whomever to swing through town on their way north from Nashville. “I was about the first one around here that started big-time music during the week.” he says. “I was giving them $500 a night. That was big money then, too. I put a $5 cover charge on the door, and the lounge I had, it was packed every night. That was about the best time of my life.” Puckett says he sold the property to the American Legion in 1971, then dabbled in different things—working for a nephew’s fencing company, running his own fertilizer-spreading company—before spending nearly 20 years with the Department of Transportation.

Even though his jersey no longer hangs in the rafters and his name isn’t in the official team photo from that ill-fated 1954-55 season, Puckett says Nation hasn’t forgotten him. 1 get recognized ever where I go.” he says. “I think it’s because of the way I left.” Trailed by question marks.