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James Lee once “tucked my head between my tail” and went back to practice after walking off court in 1978

Jack Givens, left, and James Lee with Matthew Bradford at the Ohio UK Convention. (Larry Vaught/Verizon Photo)


With last week’s transfer by sophomore point guard Quade Green, it made me think back to the 1977-78 national championship season when senior James Lee almost quit the team.

“Coach (Joe) Hall, 40 years ago was probably the toughest, meanest coach ever. I look back now and he has developed a bunch of great men,” Lee said. “We took the lessons and developed into some pretty nice guys. We have all been pretty successful and grown to be pretty good guys. Coach Hall and staff did great job dealing with us. We needed to be yelled at a few times.”

Hall was known for tough — maybe even brutal — practices. During one of those practices, Lee admitted he just “decided to walk off the court and leave” and go visit his parents, who lived in Lexington.

“I got home and my father, who was a Baptist minister, was never there. But he pulled his car into the end of the driveway. I had to park across the street, walk over and he was on the porch waiting for me,” Lee said. “He said, ‘Where are you going?’ I told him I was going in the house and he said I was not and asked why I was not at practice.

“I told him I had a little altercation (with Hall). I’ll never forget that he told me, ‘I understand you signed a four-year scholarship and you are not finished with your commitment and until that happens you are not allowed in his house. So I just tucked my head between my tail, got back in the car, drove back, got dressed, came back into practice and apologized.”

Lee still isn’t sure who apparently called his father to tell him he left practice.

“I just wanted to see my mother and knew she would give me some encouragement but I got different version from my father,” Lee said. “After that me and my father never discussed it. I never asked him who called him. I know somebody did. I just don’t know who and guess I never will.”


  1. Great story.

    It illustrates how much the world has changed over the last 40 years.

  2. You got that right professor!

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