Adolph Rupp

Adolph Frederick Rupp (September 2, 1901 – December 10, 1977) was an American college basketball coach. Rupp is ranked fifth (behind Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Bob Knight, and Dean Smith) in total victories by a men's NCAA Division I college coach, winning 876 games in 41 years of coaching at the University of Kentucky. He played college basketball at the University of Kansas under Hall of Fame coach Phog Allen. Rupp is also second among all men's college coaches in all-time winning percentage (.822), trailing only Clair Bee. Rupp was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 13, 1969.

Rupp in 1930
Biographical details
Born(1901-09-02)September 2, 1901
Halstead, Kansas
DiedDecember 10, 1977(1977-12-10) (aged 76)
Lexington, Kentucky
Playing career
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1926–1930Freeport HS
Head coaching record
Overall876–190 (college)
Accomplishments and honors
As a coach
NCAA Division I Tournament (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958)
NCAA Regional – Final Four (1942, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1958, 1966)
27× SEC regular season (1933, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1944–1952, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968–1972)
13× SEC Tournament (1933, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1944–1950, 1952)
SoCon regular season (1932)
As a player
Helms National (1922, 1923)
5× National Coach of the Year (1950, 1954, 1959, 1966, 1970)
7× SEC Coach of the Year (1964, 1966, 1968–1972)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1969
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Early life

Rupp was born September 2, 1901 in Halstead, Kansas to Heinrich Rupp, a German immigrant,[1] and Anna Lichi, a Palatinate (Quirnheim, Germany) immigrant. The fourth of six children, Rupp grew up on a 163-acre farm that his parents had homesteaded. He began playing basketball as a young child, with the help of his mother who made a ball for him by stuffing rags into a gunnysack. "Mother sewed it up and somehow made it round," he recalled in 1977. "You couldn't dribble it. You couldn't bounce it either."[2]

Rupp was a star for the Halstead High School basketball team, one of the first in the area to play with a real basketball. He averaged 19 points a game. Former teammates described Rupp as the team's unofficial coach.[1][3]

After high school, Rupp attended the University of Kansas from 1919 to 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, whom Rupp also got to know well during his time in Lawrence.[4]

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.

He received a MA from Teachers College, Columbia University.[5][6]

High school coaching

Rupp began his career in coaching by accepting a teaching job at Burr Oak High School, Kansas. After a one-year stay, Rupp moved on to Marshalltown, Iowa, where he coached wrestling, a sport he knew nothing about at the time and learned from a book. He led the Marshalltown team to a state wrestling title in 1926.[7]

In 1926–30, Rupp accepted the basketball head coaching position at Freeport High School, (Freeport, Illinois) where he also taught history and economics. During his four years at Freeport, Rupp compiled a record of 66-21 and guided his team to a third-place finish in the 1929 state tournament.[8] While at Freeport High School Rupp started William "Mose" Mosely, the first African-American to play basketball at Freeport and the second to graduate from the school.[9]

University of Illinois head basketball coach Craig Ruby was invited to speak at the team banquet following the 1929–30 season. Ruby informed Rupp of the Kentucky head coaching job and followed up by recommending him for the job.[10]

During his time in Freeport, Rupp met his future wife, Esther Schmidt.

University of Kentucky

Rupp coached the University of Kentucky men's basketball team from 1930 to 1972. There, he gained the nicknames, "Baron of the Bluegrass", and "The Man in the Brown Suit". Rupp's Wildcat teams won four NCAA championships (1948, 1949, 1951, 1958), one National Invitation Tournament title in 1946, appeared in 20 NCAA tournaments, had six NCAA Final Four appearances, 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 1966 Kentucky squad—nicknamed "Rupp's Runts"— finished runner-up in the NCAA tournament and Rupp's 1947 Wildcats finished runner-up in the National Invitation Tournament. Rupp's 1933 and 1954 Kentucky squads were also retroactively named national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation; his 1934, 1947, and 1948 teams were retroactively named the national champion by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.[11]

In his 41 seasons as UK coach, 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 Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame members. He was a 5-time National Coach-of-the-Year award winner, and a 7-time Conference Coach-of-the-Year award winner. Rupp was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, College Basketball Hall of Fame, Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, Kansas Athletic Hall of Fame, University of Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, and Helms Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame. Further, since 1972, the Adolph Rupp Trophy, considered one of the nation's premier basketball awards, has been given by the Commonwealth Athletic Club to the top men's college basketball player. In addition, the University of Kentucky retired a jersey in his honor in the rafters of Rupp Arena, a 23,500-seat arena named after him, dedicated in 1976.[12]

Rupp was forced into retirement in March 1972, at the age of 70. At the time, this was the mandatory retirement age for all University of Kentucky employees.

1951 point shaving scandal

Rupp was the head coach at Kentucky during the point shaving scandal of 1951. On October 20, 1951, former Kentucky players Alex Groza, Bill Spivey, Ralph Beard, and Dale Barnstable were arrested for taking bribes from gamblers to shave points during the National Invitation Tournament game against the Loyola Ramblers in the 1948–49 season.[13] This game occurred during the same year that Kentucky won their second straight NCAA title under Rupp.[14] Rupp and the university were criticized by the presiding judge, Saul Streit, for creating an atmosphere for the violations to occur and for "failing in his duty to observe the amateur rules, to build character, and to protect the morals and health of his charges".[15] Rupp denied any knowledge of the point shaving and no evidence was ever brought against him to show he was connected to the incident in any way.[16]

At the conclusion of this scandal, a subsequent NCAA investigation found that Kentucky had committed several rule violations, including giving illegal spending money to players on several occasions, and also allowing some ineligible athletes to compete.[16] As a result, the Southeastern Conference voted to ban Kentucky from competing for a year and the NCAA requested all other basketball-playing members not to schedule Kentucky, with eventually none doing so (this is now known as the "death penalty").[17] Because of these actions, Kentucky was forced to cancel the entire 1952–53 basketball season. Years later, Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA, unofficially referred to this punishment as the first de facto NCAA death penalty, despite the current rule first coming into effect in 1985, thus the NCAA having no such enforcement power previous to that.[18][19] Echoing Mr. Byers' view, the NCAA's official stance is very much the same, as they also state in hindsight, "In effect, it was the Association's first "death penalty," though its enforcement was binding only through constitutional language that required members to compete against only those schools that were compliant with NCAA rules. Despite fears that it would resist, Kentucky accepted the penalty and, in turn, gave the NCAA credibility to enforce its rules."[20]

1966 Championship Game against Texas Western

A pivotal game in Rupp's career and for college basketball in general was the 1966 NCAA championship game at Cole Field House against Texas Western, coached by Don Haskins. It featured Kentucky's all-white starting five versus Texas Western's all-black starting five as well as occurring at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The game, which Texas Western won 72-65, helped accelerate the ongoing integration movement in college basketball, as well as the overall recruiting approach of the SEC, ACC, and SWC conferences at large.

Coaching style and philosophy

Rupp was an early innovator of the fast break and set offense. His offense consisted of 10-15 set plays (with variations for each), complete with extensive offensive movement and screening. Early basketball innovations such as the "guard around" play and inside screen were first developed by Rupp in the 1930s. Likewise, he was an early proponent of the fast break, which his Kentucky teams utilized at every opportunity throughout his career. In addition, for most of his coaching career Rupp's defensive philosophy was largely exclusive, as he preferred only a tight man-to-man defense. However, during the 1963–64 season, Rupp became one of the first coaches to begin experimenting with the trapping 1-3-1 zone defense, and his Kentucky teams utilized this defense at times for the remainder of his career. Throughout his time at Kentucky, Rupp's recruiting focused largely on local and regional talent. In fact, over 80% of Rupp's Kentucky players came from the state of Kentucky.[21][22][23]

Rupp strongly emphasized the fundamentals of basketball, both on offense and defense, and overall discipline. Rupp believed that excellence was achieved only through repetition, and his practices stressed individual instruction, precision, and continuity. Rupp was very demanding of his players, constantly putting extreme pressure on them in practice, and mercilessly berating them for any mistakes.[23][24][25]


Rupp, a very superstitious man, was known to carry a "lucky" buckeye in his pocket. His favorite sign of good luck was finding a pin, especially a bobby pin, particularly on a game day. The depth of his superstitious nature was revealed while he was coaching at Freeport, when he had bought a new blue suit to replace his old brown one. He wore his new suit to a game, and his team got beaten badly. Rupp never again wore anything but a brown suit to games.[26]

Career after Kentucky

In April 1972, Rupp was named Team President of the Memphis Pros, soon to become the Memphis Tams, of the American Basketball Association.[27][28]

In June 1973 Rupp quit as Tams president, calling the ABA "bush league" and saying it "would never survive". Three months later, Rupp was hired as Vice President of the Board of the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association.[29][30]


Rupp died of spinal cancer at age 76 in Lexington, Kentucky, on December 10, 1977, on a night when 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 in Lexington Cemetery. Rupp Arena, the current home of the Kentucky men's basketball team, is named in his honor.

Head coaching record


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Kentucky Wildcats (Southern Conference) (1930–1932)
1930–31 Kentucky 15–38–24th
1931–32 Kentucky 15–29–1T–1st
Kentucky: 30–517–3
Kentucky Wildcats (Southeastern Conference) (1932–1972)
1932–33 Kentucky 21–38–01stHelms National Champion
1933–34 Kentucky 16–111–01stPremo-Porretta National Champion
1934–35 Kentucky 19–211–0T–1st
1935–36 Kentucky 15–66–21st
1936–37 Kentucky 17–55–3T–5th
1937–38 Kentucky 13–56–01st
1938–39 Kentucky 16–45–23rd
1939–40 Kentucky 15–64–46th
1940–41 Kentucky 17–88–11st
1941–42 Kentucky 19–66–23rdNCAA Final Four
1942–43 Kentucky 17–68–11st
1943–44 Kentucky 19–2NIT Third Place
1944–45 Kentucky 22–44–1T-1stNCAA Elite Eight
1945–46 Kentucky 28–26–0T-1stNIT Champion
1946–47 Kentucky 34–311–01stNIT Runner-up, Premo-Porretta National Champion
1947–48 Kentucky 36–39–01stNCAA Champion, Premo-Porretta National Champion
1948–49 Kentucky 32–213–01stNCAA Champion, NIT Quarterfinal
1949–50 Kentucky 25–511–21stNIT Quarterfinal
1950–51 Kentucky 32–214–01stNCAA Champion
1951–52 Kentucky 29–314–01stNCAA Elite Eight
1952–53 No team*
1953–54 Kentucky 25–015–0**T–1stHelms National Champion
1954–55 Kentucky 23–312–21stNCAA Sweet 16
1955–56 Kentucky 20–612–22ndNCAA Elite Eight
1956–57 Kentucky 23–512–21stNCAA University Division Elite Eight
1957–58 Kentucky 23–612–21stNCAA University Division Champion
1958–59 Kentucky 24–312–2T–2ndNCAA University Division Sweet 16
1959–60 Kentucky 18–710–43rd
1960–61 Kentucky 19–911–4**T–2ndNCAA University Division Elite Eight
1961–62 Kentucky 23–313–1T–1stNCAA University Division Elite Eight
1962–63 Kentucky 16–98–65th
1963–64 Kentucky 21–611–31stNCAA University Division Sweet 16
1964–65 Kentucky 15–1010–65th
1965–66 Kentucky 27–215–11stNCAA University Division Runner-up
1966–67 Kentucky 13–138–10T–5th
1967–68 Kentucky 22–515–31stNCAA University Division Elite Eight
1968–69 Kentucky 23–516–21stNCAA University Division Sweet 16
1969–70 Kentucky 26–217–11stNCAA University Division Elite 8
1970–71 Kentucky 22–616–21stNCAA University Division Sweet 16
1971–72 Kentucky 21–714–4T–1stNCAA University Division Elite Eight
Kentucky: 876–190399–75

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

  • ** Record includes SEC playoff tiebreaker games
  • The team did not play in the 1952–53 season because of involvement in a point shaving scandal.[14]

See also


  1. Ellison, Betty Boles (2001). Kentucky's Domain of Power, Greed and Corruption. Writers Club Press. p. 33. ISBN 0595159915.
  2. "Adolph Rupp: Baron of the Bluegrass". Associated Press. March 11, 1977.
  3. Holl, Richard (2015). Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Homefront during World War II. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0813165644.
  4. Roth, Richard (December 11, 2010). "Basketball 'bible' auction sets sports memorabilia record". CNN.
  5. "Adolph Rupp".
  6. "Hoop Dreams at TC".
  7. Adolph Rupp: Kentucky's Basketball Baron By Russell Rice ISBN 0-915611-98-8/
  8. Archived December 30, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  9. unpublished research from Stephenson County Historical Society, Freeport, Illinois/
  10. "Interview with Adolph Rupp, May 1971". Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  11. ESPN, ed. (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York, NY: ESPN Books. pp. 543–83. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
  12. "Sorry". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  13. "O'Connor Asks Leniency, Praises 'Co-Operation'". The Lexington Herald. April 30, 1952. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  14. Goldstein, Joe (November 19, 2003). "Explosion: 1951 scandals threaten college hoops". ESPN. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  15. "Schedule for 1952–53". Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  16. Breslin, Jimmy (March 1953). "Kentucky Apologizes for Nothing!". Sports Magazine. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  17. "UK Suspended from SEC Basketball For One Year". The Lexington Herald. August 12, 1952. Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  18. Byers, Walter (1995). "Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletics". University of Michigan Press.
  19. ESPN (2009). College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York: Random House Publishing Group. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
  20. "Chronology of Enforcement -". NCAA. Archived from the original on December 26, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
  21. "Kentucky's Big Blue Machine", by Russell Rice (1988)
  22. "All the Moves- A History of College Basketball", by Neal Issacs (1975)
  23. "The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame - Hall of Famers". December 10, 1977. Archived from the original on September 14, 2009. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  24. "Adolph Rupp: Kentucky's Basketball Baron", by Russell Rice (1994)
  25. "The Kentucky Basketball Encyclopedia", by Tom Wallace (2002)
  26. Nelli, Bert; Nelli, Steve (2015). The Winning Tradition: A History of Kentucky Wildcat Basketball. University Press of Kentucky. p. 40. ISBN 9780813165233. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  27. Archived May 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  28. Pluto, Terry, Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association (Simon & Schuster, 1990), ISBN 978-1-4165-4061-8, p.240-241, 272
  29. "Kentucky Colonels Year-to-Year Notes". Remember the ABA. Archived from the original on January 21, 2016. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  30. Pluto, Terry, Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association (Simon & Schuster, 1990), ISBN 978-1-4165-4061-8, p.272
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