Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Adolph Rupp

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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RICE: All right.

RUPP: I remember a few things about that first year in school, because I think unless something unusual happens during your other years, you remember that first year because it makes a great deal of impression on you. One is the pep rallies that we used to have. For some reason or another, you can't get a pep rally started around a school anymore. But, we used to get together and meet up on the campus, and we had men cheerleaders, we didn't have any pom-pom girls, or any cheerleaders--girl cheerleaders, they were all men, and we used to really give the "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU" some rip-roaring sound that you could hear all over that town. And I believe they had more school 00:01:00spirit in those days then they've got now. Although I can't kick about school spirit we have here at basketball games. Although the organized school spirit, in those days, was far superior to what it is now. I remember Robinson Gymnasium seated about fifteen hundred downstairs, we had bleachers that we put up, we could crowd three thousand in there, because we also had a track upstairs, and we'd put chairs up there so that we'd get about three thousand in. But it wasn't a very adequate building. Oh, it was adequate in those days. It was a nice place, about as good as anybody had. But as far as field houses are concerned, those things were unknown of in those days. Now, I also remember they had a flu epidemic. And, that caused us to suspend all 00:02:00activities on the campus for a while. There were no parties. And that's another thing that we had in those days. Fraternities and sororities, almost every weekend would give a party. I remember that I was on the varsity dance committee my last year, and I believe it was on a Saturday night that we had this varsity dance. And we had a big hall that we rented downtown, and the student council put on these dances, and it was always packed to capacity. And, as I say, I believe we were organized a little better in those days than we are now. I think our automobiles are taking a lot of our people away from our organized affairs now. We didn't have cars in those days. I don't know if ten students had had automobiles at--on our campus. They were 00:03:00absolutely unknown. Now, they cancelled the dances, of course, and I think they restricted the attendance at some of the basketball games. Possibly just allowed the players in, and maybe their families. But I remember the crowds were not permitted to the game, because of the flu epidemic. Now, of course, another thing that you run across, and in those days, of course, liquor in Kansas was unknown of, but I guess it was about as well known there as it was anywhere else. It was during prohibition as you all know, but Kansas was particularly a prohibition state, and not only did they have a federal law against it, but a 00:04:00state law, a city law, and every other kind of a law. But you know, the more laws you pass, the more people try to violate them. And, the students used to always get together at these fraternity houses before they'd go to these varsity dances, and they'd have a couple of nips before they'd show up there, although it was strictly understood that anyone that would be caught with liquor on their breath would be automatically suspended from school. Well I don't recall of anyone ever being suspended from school, because we supervised those, and of course the dean of men was supposed to be there, and the dean of women, but we kept them all off in a corner somewhere where they didn't get around too well. Now, another thing. They didn't permit the sale of cigarettes in the state of Kentucky--in the state of Kansas, rather. 00:05:00In the state of Kansas. And, I remember we sold cigarettes at the Jayhawk Cafe, and one day the agent swooped down on us, I guess it was the city cops, we had failed, possibly to give them a complimentary meal or something when they came in there, so they thought they'd make it a little rough on us, and they came in there and they caught us with three or four cartons of cigarettes. Well, "Ducky" Ingalls, of course, one of the proprietors went down and appeared before court, and he convinced them that those were his personal cigarettes. Now, it'd be pretty hard, of course, to convince a police judge that you needed three or four different brands of cigarettes for your personal use, but he got by with it, got his cigarettes back, we put them back under the stove, and whenever anyone came in and we didn't see 00:06:00anyone snooping around, anyone that wanted cigarettes, they were sold, just like they were every other place in the state of Kansas at that particular time. Now I know you want to know something about "Phog" Allen. He was a strict disciplinarian. He believed in discipline. He was a man that was a health addict. He believed in jogging. He took such good care of himself that I believe that it was possibly one of the causes, maybe, of his downfall. But "Phog" believed that everybody ought to take exercises. And he'd get up in the morning, and he'd take up the--oh, he could do the hand--push-ups, on your fingertips. He 00:07:00wouldn't let you put your heel of your hand on the floor; it had to be your fingertips. That was supposed to strengthen your fingers to such an extent that when you shot that basketball, your fingers had a lot of snap and a lot of strength to them and you wouldn't sprain your fingers. Well, I had a sprained finger every year I was there, so it didn't help me a great deal. But--and it seemed that every time, just about the time it was getting well, bang, here it would go and I'd catch a ball on the end of it again. But, he believed in all these setting up exercises, we had to do all those things before we could even start practice, and Dr. Allen, I remember, we had a session one time called by the captain of the team. We were calling Dr. Allen "Phog", everybody else called him "Phog", and his name is Forrest C. 00:08:00Allen, and, of course, it's "Phog" Allen everywhere you go. And, so I guess Dr. Allen got a hold of the captain of the team and told him that he believed that it'd be a little undignified for us to call him "Phog", and that he believed it'd be better if we would call him Dr. Allen, or just Doc, anything, but not "Phog". And so we all agreed that that was the proper thing to do, so I think most of us called him Doc from there on out, and of course, in later years, when we got a little more respectful, I always referred to him as Dr. Allen, and do even to this day, because he was a great man, and took great pride in 00:09:00his personal appearance. He had to just look the best. And whenever a photograph of the team, a picture was made, everybody had to just absolutely have a nice haircut, and everything had to be just so. He believed in perfect dress in every respect. He wouldn't put up with any of this sloppy business at all. And that's the kind of a life that he lived. He was a great crank on eating. He didn't believe in feeding too much. We never thought that he did. In the morning 00:10:00we'd get up on a trip, and he'd feed us some oatmeal, or maybe some cornflakes, and toast, and a glass of milk, and that was about all we had for breakfast. But lunch, it was always the same. I remember in the four years that I was there, we had one steak, and that was a mistake, because the hotel didn't have a piece of roast beef; that was always our standard piece of food during the basketball season. We would have fruit of some kind, roast beef, mashed potatoes, and a little ice cream. Then, at five o'clock he'd get us up, and we'd have a half of a sliced peach, a canned peach, and a little of that 00:11:00juice, and he said, "Put a lot of sugar in it because," he said, "that gives you a lot of energy." Well, I finally got so I didn't show up for those at all anymore, because I could go down to the Jayhawk Cafe and eat anything I wanted to, and I knew that to walk up on the campus and eat a half of a peach, scarcely furnished me with enough energy to get back down off of the campus. So I always went to the Jayhawk, told "Phog" that I just didn't believe I ought to eat before a meal, it made me nervous, and it upset my stomach, so I just stayed down and ate whatever I felt like eating before game time. Usually eating about five o'clock and I'd eat just about anything that I wanted to. Now, he was great on practice. I remember the first day of practice 00:12:00always was about as brutal as anything that you could get. He would practice, and practice, and practice. Pivoting, and pivoting, and pivoting, and all those things, until the blisters would be on your feet the size of a dollar. But he'd keep you out there. Where we here practice one hour the first week, and I tell our boys that as soon as your feet begin to burn, drop out. Or, we used to have some ice water, and the boys would go over and put their feet in the ice water for a while, to take the heat off, and then dry their feet, and come back out, and they always said that it worked out very nicely. Well, he didn't believe in any of that stuff. And then everybody, of 00:13:00course, had these blisters, and he just worked and worked. He didn't hesitate at all to work in the morning, and then in the evening. Or he'd work in the afternoon and evening, or in the morning and the afternoon. He never worked three times a day. But he would work twice a day. Especially during the holidays, or on days when we were not in school. And they were lengthy sessions. A lot of them, that I would consider today, not worthy of practice for the simple reason that they--we just don't do things like that anymore. We'd spend our time, oh, ten, twelve minutes on hook passing. Well, you don't throw a hook pass but maybe once in a year, and then that usually goes out 00:14:00through a window somewhere, and I just don't know. But we did a lot of those things that we just don't do. But, discipline is something that he believed in. Rigid discipline. When he--I remember we practiced one time up at Omaha, during the Christmas holidays. He didn't want to keep us in Lawrence, because he felt the change of scenery would do us good. Now we went to Omaha to practice. So, in the morning, he'd get us up, and we'd go out and run out in the country, maybe an eight mile trip. And we'd run a half a mile in our street shoes. And then we'd walk a little bit. And then we'd jog again, and then we'd run 00:15:00again, and then we'd walk a little bit. And we were completely peeped out by the time we got back to the hotel. Then he probably made us go to bed that afternoon. Well, he thought we were in bed, but some of us would get together and we'd play a little cards or something like that, just to pass the time of day. And then that evening we'd go out and we'd have a real workout. And I mean it was a workout. We finally played Creighton in a basketball game, A. A. Schabinger was the coach, and I remember just as distinctly as if it were today, we held them without a field goal until the last minute of the ballgame when one of their boys threw one in, about twenty-five feet, and that was the only field goal that they got all night. I think we held them to seven 00:16:00points. If my memory serves me correctly. And, beat them, oh, I would say about 32 or -3 to 7, something like that. But, he was strict on going to bed. It had to be just that way. I remember another trip we made. We made a trip to Columbia, Missouri, to play in a game for the championship, and I was in class at the time, the word came that he wanted to see me over at the gym right away. I didn't know what I had done, so I got over there. He says, "Get your stuff, we're going to leave right away." He said, "get down here, catch the--" I believe it was the ten o'clock interurban car for Kansas City. So I got my gear, and we all met down there at the interurban, went to Kansas City, we worked out at the KCAC, that's the Kansas City Athletic Club. Well, 00:17:00we didn't have time to eat anything, because he practiced us so long, I guess he did it deliberately, and we finally got on a train, and we were all looking for something to eat, and we didn't get anything, so he asked someone, I believe at Sedalia, to put on meals for us. They didn't have any meals there, so he wired ahead and they put on, as I recall, sixty cheese sandwiches. Just a piece of bread, with a piece of cheese in it, and no mayonnaise or anything on the thing. Oh, it was the driest thing. We each ate one of those things, and we finally got to wherever we were going, we couldn't get to Columbia that night, but we stayed in some little town. Well, "Phog" decided it was too late to eat, that that'd be bad for the stomach, and we couldn't sleep 00:18:00too good, and so he said, "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll go in here and we'll really splurge, we'll have each a cup of hot chocolate and a wafer." And we kind of all looked at each other as much as to say, "Well, when are we going to eat?" We hadn't had anything to eat since that morning, except that old dry cheese sandwich, but to bed we went, got up early in the morning. Went over to a little town, I believe the name of it's Cowan, if I'm not mistaken. It's--we dropped off there, and they were supposed to come out--a train was supposed to come out from Columbia to pick us up. Well, the train ran a shoe off 00:19:00of the driving wheel. That's the outer rim. And so, "Phog" called in, says, "Well, send a bus out here." Well, they sent a reel truck out to pick us up. And, when we got down the road about a mile and a half, they broke the fan belt. So this man went over and cut off a piece of wire off of the farmer's barb-wire fence, and patched it up, and we all started down the road, "Phog" singing, he says, "Well, let's have some fun, let's sing." Well there wasn't much fun to be had, but then "Phog" kept a good--trying to keep us in a good frame of mind. We finally got to Columbia around noon. Well I did want to say that this little old place while we were waiting for that bus, or that reel 00:20:00truck, there were two or three Negro cabins there. And "Phog" finally talked this one lady into cooking some breakfast. Well, I think she only had five or six eggs in the whole house, so the first four or five guys sat down got an egg apiece, and a piece of bread, and she cooked a little coffee, and the rest of us didn't get anything. So we didn't get anything to eat. So we got to Columbia and we worked out. Well, "Phog" got the bright idea that if we take a bath, that that'd be bad. Well, we'd been running up and down the dusty road, so that didn't kid us any. Now, here's where the mistake came in where we got those steaks. The hotel there didn't have any roast beef, so he says, "Give 00:21:00the poor devils some steaks then," he says, "it isn't going to make any difference anyway." And so we had some steaks, and that's where the mistake came in. Well, we then went up, of course, and took a shower, because we were dusty anyway, and went to bed for the afternoon. And that evening, we beat the University of Missouri, I think it was 23-16 for the championship, and we were undefeated for the year, and it was a great thing. We had a big banquet that night; the squad was all taken down to a Greek restaurant. There were seven or eight of us showed up for it, and "Phog" showed up for it. We had pork chops, green beans, and mashed potatoes. I remember that. Well, I could have had that at the Jayhawk just as well, but we--it was a nice way to celebrate an undefeated season. Far different than we do things today, but 00:22:00nevertheless, we enjoyed it, we lived through it, we all had a lot of fun, we had a lot of respect for "Phog", because "Phog" was a strict disciplinarian, he had to do things his way, and I think if we had more men like "Phog" Allen living today in many places of responsibility, this would be a far better world.

[Pause in recording]

RICE: Fire away.

RUPP: Now, in talking about basketball, I think it'd be well to go back to the very beginning of basketball, because it was my privilege to 00:23:00have an opportunity to be under two men, I think, that had a great deal to do with basketball. One, of course, was Dr. James Naismith who invented the game of basketball, and I was associated with him for five years, and then of course I met with him many many times after that, at the national conventions, and also, I met with him, of course, when I go back to Lawrence, Kansas. And the other man, of course, was Dr. Forrest C. Allen, who was a disciple of Dr. Naismith. Much of their philosophy was exactly the same. Now, the story of basketball began in the Autumn of 1891 at the International YMCA Training School, that's now Springfield College in Massachusetts, when 00:24:00a thirty year old Canadian student instructor, named James A. Naismith took over a gym class composed of older students planning to become YMCA administrators. The group had made it eminently clear it was bored and unhappy with sessions in the gym. Naismith felt the best solution was to invent a new indoor game by combining certain elements of various games in existence. Discovering that all the gymnastic games were the same, Naismith set out to modify some of the great outdoor sports. He first turned to football, and tried to eliminate the roughness by substituting the tackling of English Rugby; hitting above the hips, and stopping rather than throwing the runner. But this didn't appeal to the class. He next tried soccer, which resulted in bruises and broken windows, and then he tried lacrosse which proved 00:25:00more injurious. Near defeat two weeks later, Naismith realized that a normal individual is influenced strongly by tradition. And immediately rejects any attempt to change known games. He concluded that since all games used a ball of some kind, a new game also must use a ball. Preferably a large light one that could not be hit effectively with a bat, stick, or a racket, and which almost anyone could catch and throw with very little practice. Since the most interesting game at the time was football, he reasoned it could be used as an indoor sport if tackling were eliminated. And the best way to stop tackling was to forbid the men to run with the ball. Naismith started with that single idea, added a soccer ball, and an elevated goal, which would force players to shoot on an arc, and thereby make accuracy more important 00:26:00than brute strength. The superintendent of buildings use--asked for two boxes, about eighteen inches square, but in the long run, produced two peach baskets, which Naismith nailed to the lower rail of the ten foot balcony, one at either end of the gym. He scratched out a set of thirteen rules, and tacked them to the gym bulletin board. Now, this original gym floor is in the hall of fame at Springfield, Massachusetts. And, if you go back there and visit the hall of fame, you'll have an opportunity to see where the first game of basketball was played on the original boards where Dr. Naismith invented this game of basketball. The game was a success from the very start. Crowds soon began to gather at 11:30 o'clock each morning to watch the fun in Naismith's gym 00:27:00classes. During the Christmas holidays, many students went home and started the game in their local YMCA. Now, at first, they just had a peach basket nailed up there, and so they drilled a hole in there, and they got a poker and they poked the ball out. Then finally they took the bottom out of the peach basket, and it was apparent that whenever a basket was scored, that you could tell that the ball would go through. That was the next innovation. Then, of course, came the ring, then came the net, and--that we have at the present time. The rules of the game were first printed in January of 1892 under the heading, "A New Game," in The Triangle, the school paper. Naismith organized the first basketball team that year, and Springfield YMCA group went on 00:28:00exhibition in upstate New York and Rhode Island. In February, Central and Armory Hill branches of the YMCA played the first game, a 2-2 tie, between teams from two different organizations. A month later the Armory Hill team scored one goal to zero, and gained a victory. During its first two years, basketball grew more rapidly, perhaps, than any game after the Civil War. First, it was so constituted that it met in an adequate way, the real need for a vigorous indoor game. Second, it was developed in an institution which sent its students, all of whom had learned to play the game, to all parts of the--

[Pause in recording]

ANNOUNCER VOICE: Sweet revenge for years of frustration Saturday. They've been at the mercy of Indiana's power ever since the mid-summer 00:29:00series began back in 1940. But they took the Hoosier's twice this year to get back in the running. First, of course, they won at Louisville 91-71, and last Saturday they beat Indiana again at Butler Field House 77-76. The Hoosiers still lead in the all-time series, 15-4, but at last, Kentucky has salvaged some glory. The boys of Coach Ralph Carlisle tossed a torrid fast break, sparkling passing, and some really expert rebounding at the Hoosiers, and when Bobby Jones, their top rebounder fouled out, with eight minutes and twenty-five seconds to go in the game, Kentucky mustered the know-how to fill the gap. Individual honors, however, went to Al Maxey of Indianapolis Attucks. He topped the scoring Saturday night with twenty-four points and turned in a superb rebounding job for the Hoosiers. By the way, because the baseball was rained out Saturday night, this reporter, yours truly, had an opportunity to take in that high school all-star game, and witnessed Kentucky's 76--77-76 victory. I will have to 00:30:00admit, I found it pretty tough to choose sides, after all Kentucky is my home state, but I knew the Indiana boys much better. So, my sentiments were divided to say the least. An incident occurred in the Kentucky dressing room after the game, which very well could affect the quality of future games between the two teams. And I think it should be brought out. Ralph Carlisle, the Kentucky coach who did an outstanding job with his club, had asked Coach Adolph Rupp, his former coach at Kentucky where Ralph was a star, to visit the dressing room and say something to the boys after the game.

[Pause in recording]

RUPP: I remember a few things about that first year in school, because I think unless something unusual happens during your other years, you remember that first year because it makes a great deal of impression on 00:31:00you. One is the pep rallies that we used to have. For some reason or another--

[Pause in recording]

RUPP: Strict discipline.

[End of interview]