When he left the sidelines after 42 years at the University of Kentucky, Adolph Rupp had won more games than any other coach in college basketball history. The crusty, cantankerous "Baron" captured four national championships, made winning synonymous with Kentucky basketball, and became as large in the Bluegrass State as thoroughbred horses and bourbon whiskey.
Rupp's highly disciplined offense consisted of just 10 plays. Sharp outside shooting was a staple, with deadeyes such as Cliff Hagan, Pat Riley, Louie Dampier, and Dan Issel scoring big numbers. Rupp developed 15 consensus All-Americans, more than any other coach, and 28 professional players.
At age 29, Rupp took the reins at Kentucky in 1930, having never coached above the high school level. After a decade, his record stood at 162-37; after 20 years, it was 411-78, the best such mark in history. He won his first two national titles in 1948 and 1949 with the Alex Groza-led "Fabulous Five," captured another championship in 1951, and still another in 1958, the latter by a group known as the "Fiddlin' Five."
In 1952, the Kentucky program was shut down for a year because of a point-shaving scandal. The Wildcats went 25-0 the next season but were barred from the NCAA Tournament. The Baron made one more appearance in the national championship game when "Rupp's Runts," an all-white unit with no starter taller than 6'5", lost to Texas Western University's all-black starting five in 1966.
For Rupp, bitterly opposed to integration, the loss symbolized his weakening grip on the game. In poor health, he coached six more seasons before retiring in 1972 with 876 victories and 190 defeats. The son of Austrian and German immigrants, Rupp was born September 2, 1901, and raised on his family's farm in Halstead, Kansas.
He played basketball at the University of Kansas from 1919-1923, where he absorbed the game from coach Phog Allen and basketball founder Dr. James Naismith, then an instructor in the university's P.E. department. Rupp later coached at high schools in Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois before going to Kentucky. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1968 and died in 1977.