The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky on November 23, 1969 · Page 174
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The Courier-Journal from Louisville, Kentucky · Page 174

Louisville, Kentucky
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 23, 1969
Page 174
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6 BASKETBALL SECTION Now, Retirement 2 Years Away Vhen it 37 'Way Back Rupp H Ail-Americans he's had, but it is enough to say the numbers run into the millions. He is, by acclamation of the honorable and respected Columbus Touchdown Club, the Coach of the Century. He is, most of all, the University of Kentucky coach. On Dec. 1, Rupp begins his 40th season at UK. After this season and one more, he'll reach the school's mandatory retirement age of 70. It is hard to imagine him retired. A prideful and ornery old man, autocratic and insulting, helpful and charming, given to fits of good humor and possessed of true comic ability, Adolph Rupp is as alive at age 68 as he was at 8. A visit to his office proves it. "Coach, I've read practically everything about you. But I don't remember seeing anything about your childhood. You know, where you were born, that sort of thing." "It's all in the record book. All that stuff is." Rupp, on this day two weeks ago, was in a hurry. A high school coach in Indiana wouldn't let Rupps assistant in to watch practice. Rupp had to call that fellow and set By DAVE KINDRED Louisville Times Sports Columnist Tn 1908, Halstcad High School won the Kansas state basketball championship. In 1909, Halstead won it again. In 1969, Adolph Rupp would say, "Hell, that was contagious." Rupp, in 1909, was eight years old. He lived on a farm eight miles outside Hal-stead. His mother, Anna, made him a basketball. She filled a gunnysack with prairie hay. His father, Henry, made him a basketball goal. He nailed a barrel stave to the barn. "So when I was 8," Rupp would say 60 years later, "I was already playing a modified form of basketball." Modified? "Why, yes," he said. "You couldn't dribble that gunnysack." Adolph Rupp today is a basketball coach. He is, by record, the most successful college basketball coach ever. Someone good with numbers can tell you how many games he's won and how many rx. ';?V ADOLPH RUPP Starting 40th season at UK Issel: A Fabulous Story And Yet, He Almost Didn't Make It to UK him straight. He had letters to dictate, too, and practice would start in an hour. Then, after establishing that he didn't have to talk ("It's all in the record book"), Rupp talked freely and without prompting, the perfect subject for an interviewer. 'We Had a Hard Time Then' His father, Henry, came over from Germany in the middle 1800s. Under the Homestead Act of 1863, Henry Rupp took 160 acres of land outside Halstead, Kan. He died of cancer in 1910, leaving his wife, Anna, with five boys and a girL "We had a hard time then," Rupp said. The Rupps had three successive crop failures after their father died. They lived from their garden. Mrs. Rupp knitted mittens and socks. She made all her daughter's dresses. The grade school, District 33, was z miles away, and the children walked. Halstead, eight miles away over paths that were called roads, was practically inaccessible. Adolph Rupp's childhood, then, was that of the poor country boy. He can tell you today what that farm was like 60 years ago: Five acres of alfalfa . . . native pasture, corn and wheat, with oats rotated with the corn because they needed oats for the horses . . . two or three porkers for butchering ("I st ill say lard cooks things better than all this new-fangled shortening"). You cured your own meat, ground your own flour, hunted rabbits and geese and ducks. You milked cows, fed the hogs, cleaned the barns, took care of the calves, chopped wood for the fireplace. And you learned something about a way of life ("That's the reason I talk the way I do today about free enterprise. It's so deeply ingrained in me."). And, finally, there was basketball, too. Rupp, the CcntT, Gets G Points "I played in my first organized basketball game in 1913," Rupp said. "District 33 played the grade school from the city of Halstead. We played them on the dirt floor outside our school and we beat them 16-11." Did Rupp start? "Yes, sir," he said, a smile making him (cross my heart) almost cherubic. "I was the center." Did he score much? "Yes, sir. I got six points." In high school at Halstead, a school of 100 students in a city of 1,200 people, Rupp was still the starting center. At 6 feet 1, he became a star. When his class got together for a 50th anniversary reunion last June, Rupp rediscovered something he had forgotten. "One of the fellows had a record of the nant. I didn't really realize how bad it could have been until later." Weakened and underweight, Issel was slow in rounding into form. Finally, in his 13th game, he scored 20 points for the first time as a collegian. (He has made that many or more in 31 of 42 games since and has scored 30 or more on 12 occasions.) It was about this time. too. that Issl By DICK FENLON Courier-Journal & Times Staff Writer It's a story that is too flagrantly and unabashedly happy to be real. The tall kid out there in Midwestern suburbia, given the opportunity by an outstanding father to participate in fun and games, makes the most of it. He grows four inches in one year in high school, turns into an outstanding basketball player and is rewarded with a free college education. lie goes South to college, becomes an All-American, gets a chance to visit foreign lands that are only words in the Atlas to most Americans, weds one of the prettiest of his school's cheerleaders, finds a pot of gold as a professional and then, devoting himself to a productive business career, lives happily ever after. You know the kid. His name is Dan Issel and, for him, everything in the story is well on its way to becoming true. Dan Issel, son of a self-employed painting contractor of Batavia, 111., who was too busy himself working as a boy to take part in sports, will graduate in 1970 from the University of Kentucky with a degree in business administration. Sure-Fire All-American He already holds the university records for the most points scored during a season, the most field goals made, for the highest scoring average. He has already been named to a passel of All-American teams and in this, his senior season, surely will be a first-team selection on most everybody's list. He has been to Yugoslavia and Finland, strolled around Red Square in Moscow and stared at Lenin lying there in his tomb. He has acquired a wife, Lexington beauty Cheryl Hughes who formerly led cheers for Issel and his Kentucky teammates. They were married last June 14. And, at the end of this season, two professional teams one from the National Basketball Association and one from the American Basketball Association are due to wage war for the privilege of paying Dan Issel a princely sum of money for his services for the next few years. Issel is one of the nation's great basketball players because of his own ability and hard work, because of the encouragement lent him by his father, Robert Issel, and because of the expertise of two coaches, Don Vandersnick of Batavia High School and Adolph Rupp of the University of Kentucky. He very nearly eluded the influence of the latter coach. "Batavia is just outside Chicago and that's Big Ten country," Issel related while chatting with a reporter in the UK Coliseum. As a high school senior, I narrowed my choice down to four Big Ten schools and finally signed a letter of intent with Wisconsin. Then I had a chance to visit Kentucky. Finds Kentucky 'Best of AH' "When I got back home my dad asked, 'What did you think of Kentucky?' I told him I wasn't sure, but I thought I liked it. So he said, 'Let's go down again.' " Because of recruiting regulations, Robert Issel was forced to pay for the second trip out of his own pocket. But the expense was worth it. "I decided that this school was the best," said Dan. "So here I am." The result provides another page in UK's fabulous basketball annals. Issel moved onto the varsity with fellow sophomores Mike Casey and Mike Pratt in the fall of 1967, averaged 16.4 points and a team-leading 12.1 rebounds, and helped UK to the Southeastern Conference title and the NCAA Mideast Regional. That summer, he was named to the Olympic squad as an alternate and made the summer European tour with the team. Last year, as a junior, Issel increased his point average to a school-record 26.6, rebounded at a 13.6 clip and again paced UK to the SEC title and a second straight NCAA regional appearance. He was particularly brilliant down the SEC stretch, averaging over 31 points in the final 10 regular season games and hitting a high of 41 in a game at Vanderbilt. Rupp Reserves Judgment With 1,190 points in two seasons, Issel will most likely become the greatest scorer in UK history sometime late this season. He needs 581 points to eclipse Cotton Nash's peak of 1,770. His coach, who does not believe in burdening his players with superlatives while their careers are still in process, is reserved in his judgment of Issel. But Rupp, master molder of Ail-Americans, does admit that "in those last few games last season, when everything was on the line, he played as well as any center I've ever had." Although it is heading with apparent inevitableness to a happy ending, the Dan Issel story has not been without its problems. Just before his sophomore season a growth appeared on Issel's mouth. "There was a heated battle between Cliff Berger and myself for center," he recalled, "and so I didn't want them to take it out. But they were worried because of the chance it might be malig learned to endure the biting tongue of his coach, a, renowned expert at the art of cutting 'down the mightiest of his players in practice. "I learned that you must take the criticism constructively and go on from there," he said. "You can't think about the words. He's a perfectionist he wants everything perfect. But there is nobody who has earned my respect more than coach Rupp." Issel's biggest heartaches shared by thousands of Kentuckians came in losses in successive seasons in the Mideast Regional Tournament, first to Ohio State in the final in 1968 at Lexington, then to Marquette in the opening round last March at Madison, Wis. "It has been a big disappointment, getting beat like we did both times," he said. "Let's face it the NCAA that's what the whole season is about." Despite the loss of Casey, who broke a leg in an auto accident last summer, Issel is cautiously hopeful that UK can redeem itself this March. The road he has mapped out for himself after that includes a stop of perhaps four or five years in the pros. ("I wouldn't want to stay beyond the point of usefulness like a lot of professional athletes do," he said.) Would Play in ABA Because of his ability as an outside shooter, his size and strength, the 6-foot-8, 242-pound Issel is prized by the pro scouts as a forward prospect. It is conceivableif the ABA and NBA don't merge in the meantime that he could be the (top draft choice of both leagues. The Kentucky Colonels, of course, would like to have him and he says he would be agreeable to playing for them. "A couple of years ago, if I could have played in the NBA over the ABA, I would have," he said. "But I think the ABA has established itself it will be around for a while and so now I don't have any preference." Wendell Cherry, the president of the Colonels under their new ownership, will be glad to hear that. The night the Colonels changed hands last month, Cherry, pounding a table for emphasis, said, "li we do anything, we're going to get Dan Issel." For Kentuckians, that would be another happy chapter in the Dan Issel story. scores of all our games," Rupp said. "And it showed that I scored 14 field goals in a game five different times." Wasn't that amazing scoring back then? "Yes sir," he said. "Some teams didn't score as much as I did. Of course, in those days one man threw all the free throws, and I was that man for our team." What was his biggest scoring night? "I had 37 points once." 1 nad the Leading Role' Where did Halstead High play its games? "We played at the City Hall," Rupp said. "There was nothing to do in the town, absolutely nothing at all. There was a picture show that ran on Saturday and Tuesday. Of course, we played on Friday. You could get into our games for ,25 cents, but the place it was about 65-by-110 didn't seat more than 500 people. "They used the City Hall for everything back then. Town meetings, revivals, the senior play." Was Rupp in the senior play? "I had the leading role." What was the play? "Oh, I don't remember. You have to remember, this was a small town and no one could be left out of the senior play because you would offend the whole family." Anyway, after high school, Adolph Rupp went to Kansas University, and . . . "That's another story, and it's too long for the newspaper," he said. Then he went to practice.

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