Here’s the 1960s player list…pics via BigBlueHistory.net
The 1960s would be Adolph Rupp’s final full decade as the University of Kentucky men’s basketball coach. It would also be his least successful, at least in terms of NCAA championships. UK worked at a pace of 2 titles per decade in the previous two ten-year spans, but the Cats would only make it to one Final Four in the groovy 60s.
For most universities, this wouldn’t have been anything odd – but this was UK – the most prestigious and successful basketball program in the country since Rupp took over.
“The Man in the Brown Suit” saw his record 4 titles stagnate (he would never get the 5th, as we all know). The decade wasn’t a failure, though. These Wildcat teams were insanely skilled and posted several great records. In fact, the 1960s crop of UK guys has to be one most talented and memorable group of basketball players any school has ever seen in one decade. Unfortunately, UCLA’s talent was right there with UK’s – the Bruins and Wooden started their dominant streak in 1964 and ended the decade with 6 national championships. While the Cat didn’t reach anywhere near that level of success, the 1960s still provided fans with some great memories with great players (Rupp’s Runts, anyone?).
Let’s take a look at some interesting tidbits/highlights of this era:
In ’61, Bill Lickert reached 2nd team All-American status. Vinny Del Negro left school mid-season. The next year, Cotton Nash rose from the freshman team to become a sophomore All-American stud, leading UK to a 23-3 record. The first two seasons of the decade ended in Elite Eight losses to Ohio State.
1962-63 marked, at the time, Rupp’s worst season. Nash and the Cats came in at preseason #3, but wound up with a 16-9 record that ended with no NCAA tournament appearance and a road loss to Tennessee. Even the freshman team struggled, as 4 starters cut a successful season short due to academic ineligibility. 1963-64 saw improvement (21-6), high rankings (up to #1 before back-to-back losses after an undefeated start), and individual success (Cotton Nash posted huge numbers, once again). Unfortunately, the season ended with zero NCAA hardware, thus it wasn’t a true Kentucky success. One season later in 1965, UK tasted some bittersweetness – the legends Louie Dampier and Pat Riley showed up, but Rupp surpassed his previous worst season and the Cats ended up at 15-10.
All that didn’t matter once the 1965-66 season got rolling. The entire state became enamored with Rupp’s Runts – Dampier, Riley, Tommy Kron, Thad Jaracz, and senior Larry Conley. So much can be said about these guys, but I’ve already made this post too long. After an epic #1 vs. #2 battle between UK and Duke, the exciting and successful season finally ended at the hands of the first all-black starting five of Texas Western in the NCAA Finals (I’ve still refused to watch Glory Road). This was as close as Rupp would ever get to another title.
1967 saw a new low (13-13, no NCAAT), but 1968 provided fans with the amazing trio of Dan Issel, Mike Casey, and Mike Pratt. Issel, the big man of Rupp’s dreams (0_o), would change the game for UK basketball and still holds several records. Ohio State ended his first season in the Elite Eight (man, I hate those guys…so glad we won this year). The final three seasons of the decade, encompassing Issel’s career, were an overall success by the numbers. From 1968-70, UK went a combined 71-12, but never cracked the Final Four. In ’69, Rupp reached win 800 and UK1K happened against UT on 1/18/69. The decade closed in 1970 with #1 UK losing to #4 Jacksonville in the Elite Eight.
A Drew Franklin-esque note from the final season: Randy Pool and Bob McCowan were kicked off the team for “curfew and tavern patronage”.
*not McCowan or Pool, but don’t they just look mischievous?
Here’s your 1960s ALL-DECADE TEAM:
– Rupp’s Runts (Dampier 19.69 ppg, Riley 18.3 ppg, Kron 9.1 ppg, Jaracz 11.98 ppg, Conley 11.53 ppg)
– Bill Lickert 14.75 ppg
– Cotton Nash 22.69 ppg
– Mike Casey 18.72 ppg
– Dan Issel 25.76 ppg