Tag Archives: kentucky basketball

Kentucky Basketball Legends: Still Making Their Mark

Members of the 1998 Kentucky Men’s Basketball Championship team will sign Maker’s Mark annual commemorative bottles at the Keeneland Entertainment Center this Friday, April 13, at 7 a.m. Among those signing at the event will be forward guard Allen Edwards, guard Jeff Sheppard, and former UK head coach Tubby Smith, all of whom are featured in Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories from Kentucky Basketball Greats. In this book, author Doug Brunk details the cherished bond between Kentucky basketball and the citizens of the Commonwealth through first-hand accounts from some of the Wildcats’ most renowned legends.

Tickets for the Maker’s Mark signing are already sold out, but you still have a chance to get up close and personal with these champions by way of this engrossing book. Below is an excerpt of Coach Tubby Smith’s chapter from Wildcat Memories:

As a coach, you love the fans, and you want their support. Having an affinity for the fan base is essential. You are providing a service coaching their team. You are trying to win, and you are trying to do the right things for your players, your coaches, the university, and the fans. Fans may boo you or cheer you. They call and they write with praise and criticism. But you can’t let that affect you, or you’re not going to last long in coaching or be successful in coaching. I became a college coach for the student-athletes, to get them educated and to teach them the game of basketball.


During his ten-year tenure, Tubby Smith guided UK to one national championship, five SEC Tournament titles, and six Sweet Sixteen finishes. (Courtesy of Victoria Graff.)

During my tenure at UK there was an element of the fan base that didn’t think our teams had won enough games, but in five of my ten years as coach we probably played the toughest schedule in the history of UK basketball. I wish we could have won more games while I was head coach. But we were competitive, we graduated our players, and we kept the program clean. If there was pressure, it was pressure to make sure we did things in a first-class manner. 

One thing I appreciate about UK fans is that they know how to be grateful, because the program has been so successful , and the fans are proud of that success. They show their pride, and they should. They show their commitment by calling in to talk shows, writing letters, and flocking to Rupp Arena or wherever the team plays. You’re not going to find more loyal, passionate fans for their team than followers of the Wildcats. That’s the one common thing. Just about everybody in Kentucky is pulling for you to be successful. It’s a way of life in the Commonwealth. 


A Look Back On The Wildcat’s Championships

Kentucky has won a lot of Championships. A lot; 8 total. And I know that it’s hard not to sound like someone is bragging when they say that, but it really is amazing that a school – any school – has achieved that (and UK doesn’t even have the most! It’s UCLA, with 10). And, I mean, it happened; there’s no denying it. And now, they are, once again, in the running for another title, and possibly a perfect season to boot. Now, anything can happen in the tournament, and this no way claiming that Kentucky will go all the way, but, let’s take a little retrospective on UK’s titles anyway, and, hopefully, provide some fun factoids you may never have known.



1921 Champions

While this may not count as an NCAA title, since it didn’t even exist back then, I’m still going to include it. Back in 1921 George Buccheit and his “Wonder Team,” who I talked about in the previous blog post, went on to win the first ever Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament against the Georgia Bulldogs. The team comprised of all Kentucky natives and was led by Basil Hayden, UK’s first All American. He also returned to coach UK in 1926, but had a dismal 3 – 13 record.1921_UK_bball_team



1948 – 1949 Back to Back Champions

Kentucky’s first championship was also the second time, ever, that a college team had won both the NCAA and NIT title. They played against the Baylor Bears, defeating them 77 – 59. And while the game was not as dramatic as others, the team went on to play in the Olympics, afterwards, in London, winning gold – the first college team ever to do so. The next year, most of The Fabulous Five returned, winning one more game than the previous year, and went on to win another championship against Oklahoma A&M, defeating them 46 – 36.




1951 Champions

With a championship omission in the 1950 season, Kentucky came roaring back to defeat Kansas State 68 – 58 in 1951 to claim the title. Victory was not celebrated for long however. Scandal rocked the school; Kentucky players, Alex Groza, Ralph Beard, and Dale Barnstable were accused of taking bribes to shave points in the 1948-1949 season against Loyola. As a result, Kentucky cancelled the 1952 – 1953 season. champs1951

The Undefeated in 1954

I’m also just including this one just because it’s interesting. In 1954, Kentucky went undefeated in the regular season; they had a perfect 25 – 0 and were also ranked the number one team overall. But Rupp, following a decision that excluded some of his star players from participating in the tournament, in protest, backed out of the tournament.1953-54

1958 Champions

Both UK’s and Rupp’s fourth title, this season showed the Cats play against Seattle in Louisville. This team, also known as the “Fiddlin’ Five,” who was also mentioned the previous blog post, dropped as low as thirteen in the overall rankings. But, despite their “fiddlin’” they still brought home the championship, defeating Seattle 84 – 72.champs1958

1978 Champions

Kentucky’s next championship would not be for another twenty years. The pressure mounted each year UK did not win a title, so by 1978, they were known for almost never breaking composure during their games. Hence, this season was known as the “Season Without Celebration.” Their dedication paid off however, as they won 30 out of 32 games and went on to defeat Duke 94 – 88.champs1978

1996 Champions

It would almost be another twenty years though before Kentucky won their sixth championship. Pitino, in ‘96’, however, coached “The Untouchables” to the Finals. They defeated Syracuse 76- 67, and almost went on to win the championship two years in a row, but, lost to Arizona, one of the two games “The Untouchables” lost, in ’97, partially due to Derek Anderson tearing his ACL.champs1996

1998 Champions

After Pitino, Tubby Smith came to Rupp arena and took the Cats to the finals in his very first season with the Cats. This team played “Tubbyball,” a defense oriented, slow tempo type of playing, This caused them to never truly dominate the court, as Kentucky fans usually prefer, but always come from behind and pull off amazing comebacks, such as the Duke and Stanford games during the season.champs1998

2012 Champions

And then the Wildcats didn’t make to the Final Four again until 2011. They lost to UConn however, that season, but bounced back the next year, only losing two games, and wound up defeating Kansas 67- 59 in New Orleans, earning their eight national championship. The team lost six players to the NBA after this season, leading Calipari to recruit, arguably, one of the best recruiting classes of all time.UK men's basketball photo day 2011-12, John Calipari, UK Basketball, UK men's basketball team photo


Check out some of our other books on Kentucky Basketball, as well as some other sports, here.

The Cat’s Pet Names

Kentucky has had a lot of great Basketball teams throughout the years, and, as a result a lot of these teams have garnered nicknames. For whatever reason, whether it be for memory’s sake or just for the fun of it, any memorable whoever or whatever in sports has to have a nickname to go by. Nicknaming is an essential part of sport’s culture and in honor of March Madness – and being in Kentucky – here are some of the pet names the Cats have been called over the years.


The Wonder Team (1919 – 1925)

Back in the early days of Kentucky Basketball, all the way back in 1919, there was Coach George Buchheit’s “Wonder Team.” Bringing with him the “Illinois System,” Buchheit led the Wonder Team to the first ever, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament victory, in 1921, defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in what is considered the first major success of UK Basketball. However, the team was not able to match the success of this season with their remaining time at UK. One player injured his knee and another one succumbed to diphtheria at the end of the season.1921_UK_bball_team

The Mauerman (1927 – 1928)

Coach John Mauer never won any Southern Conference titles during his time at UK, but his “Mauermen,” total, went 40-14 by the time he left. They were known for being team oriented and, in general, being a very well rounded team, laying the foundation for what the program was destined to become.


The Fabulous Five (1947 – 1948)

Here is the team that is responsible for Kentucky’s first ever title. Led by Adolph Rupp, the “Fab Five” defeated the Baylor Bears 77 to 59, claiming their spot as champions. However, it is not just that they won UK’s very first title that they are referred to as The Fabulous Five, even though that is certainly a key factor. After the championship, the starting five went on to play in the Olympics, defeating every opposing team in London. This makes Kentucky the only team ever to win an NCAA title and an Olympic gold medal.champs1948

The Fiddlin’ Five (1957-1958)

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are the Fiddlin’ Five, the team that had the most losses during a season, albeit still winning a championship. Rupp referred to them as this, mainly, just because he didn’t think they were a good team. They lost 6 games during the season, but still went on to win the championship against Seattle in Freedom Hall.1957-58
The Unforgettables (1991 – 1992)

Obviously I have to start this blurb off with saying: you can’t forget the Unforgettables. This team, made up of mostly local players, played one of the most memorable games in college basketball history, against Duke in 1992. But, despite the loss, their legacy lives on at UK; their jerseys were almost instantly retired after the game.uk-basketball-live-kentucky-1991-92-roster-new

The 8th Wonders (2011 – 2012)

While the Unforgettables might have played one of the most memorable games in NCAA history, the 8th Wonders had, arguably, one of the most iconic players on its team. Yes, it’s Anthony Davis, the man who has trademarked phrases about his unibrow. While no one will forget “The Brow,” Davis is not the only distinctive feature about this team. This team was also the first to have two of its players taken as the first and second draft picks in the NBA. They also had the six players chosen in a single two-round draft, the most ever taken.11-12


To learn more about University of Kentucky Men’s basketball, check out our extensive collection of books on the subject here


The Graves County Boys


March Madness is almost here! And with it come the memories of the great Kentucky teams of yore. One of which, the Cuba Cubs, was a surprising victor. When the small-town basketball team from Graves County, KY won the state championship in 1952, they became legends. The Cuba Cubs are the central point of Marianne Walker’s book The Graves County Boys: A Tale of Kentucky Basketball, Perseverance, and the Unlikely Championship of the Cuba Cubs. The book narrates the classic tale of the underdog, detailing the lives of the five boys and their coach who captured the hearts of basketball fans nation-wide.

Enter our Goodreads giveaway for The Graves County Boys for your chance to win one of three copies!

March Madness is coming!

We’re already gearing up for March Madness, and in a state that boasts two college basketball teams with National Championships in 2012 and 2013, it’s no wonder we know a thing or two about basketball literature. let’s see why the Big Blue Nation is one of the strongest fan bases in the country.

NCAA Men's Championship Game - Kansas v Kentucky

Jerry L. Walls and Gregory Bassham explore the art of America’s most popular team sport in their book Basketball and Philosophy: Thinking outside the Paint. It’s a must-read for any basketball lover.