By LARRY VAUGHT
One thing about former Kentucky coach Joe Hall has always stood out for former UK point guard Roger Harden.
“Joe B. always told us just how things would be. I remember him telling us that most of us (UK players) would stay in the state to live and that fans would remember you most of your life,” Harden, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball who lived in Kentucky until a recent move back to Indiana, said. “Coach Hall never lied to anybody.
“He was tough to play for but he deserves lot of credit for what he did and what he got us to do. That last year t the end of 1985 we caught fire and Kenny (Walker) and I took over the team and seized control just like he wanted at the right time.
Harden says Hall was as “sharp as a tack” when it came to coaching in so many ways that he didn’t always get credit for when he was coaching.
“One thing that made coach Hall unique was that he grew up watching Kentucky basketball and he understood
when he took over as head coach what that meant. He never forgot. He connected with UK fans in a special way,” Harden said.
“He understood the reasons Kentucky basketball was great. He sold Kentucky as being the place to go as a high school All-American. He was the first one with a players’ lodge. He got us out in the community when nobody else was doing that.
“In the summer after we lost in the NCAA Tournament we all got speaking requests that you had to go do. We all had to speak at banquets and stuff. He always said if you do that, you connect with people in the state. He was right, too.”
One of my favorite things Hall did was take his players across the state for preseason intrasquad scrimmages so fans who couldn’t get to Lexington to see them play would have that opportunity. Harden did 12 in four years and over 30 years later still has fond memories of those events.
“We would load up from Wildcat Lodge on a Greyhound bus and knew it would be like a rock concert,” Harden said. “The gym would be packed. Someone would cook dinner cooked for us. As soon as we got off the bus fans would be there to see you. We got that raw connection with UK fans and once you do, you take that to the court with you. I am not sure players today get that like we did because coach Hall made sure we got that (before the NCAA banned preseason off campus intrasquad scrimmages).”