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Adolph Rupp and the Rise of Kentucky Basketball

by James Duane Bolin

Availablecloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-7720-5
432 pages  Pubdate: 03/15/2019  6 x 9  26 b&w photos

Listen: Roberta Schultz reviews James Duane Bolin’s release, Adolph Rupp and the Rise of Kentucky Basketball. | Listen online here

Known as the “Man in the Brown Suit” and “The Baron of the Bluegrass,” Adolph Rupp (1901–1977) is a towering figure in the history of college athletics. In Adolph Rupp and the Rise of Kentucky Basketball, historian James Duane Bolin goes beyond the wins and losses to present a full-length biography of Rupp based on more than one-hundred interviews with Rupp, his assistant coaches, former players, University of Kentucky presidents and faculty members, and his admirers and critics, as well as court transcripts, newspaper accounts, and other archival materials, this biography presents the fullest account of Rupp’s life to date. His teams won four NCAA championships (1948, 1949, 1951, and 1958), one National Invitation Tournament title in 1946, and twenty-seven Southeastern Conference regular season titles. Rupp’s influence on the game of college basketball and on his adopted home of Kentucky are both much broader than his impressive record on the court.

Bolin covers Rupp’s early years—from his rural upbringing in a German Mennonite family in Halstead, Kansas, through his undergraduate years at the University of Kansas playing on teams coached by Phog Allen and taking classes with James Naismith, the inventor of basketball—to his success at Kentucky. This revealing portrait of a pivotal figure in American sports also exposes how college basketball changed, for better or worse, in the twentieth century.

James Duane Bolin is professor emeritus of history at Murray State University. He is the author of Home and Away: A Professor’s Journal, Bossism and Reform in a Southern City: Lexington, Kentucky, 1880-1940, and Kentucky Baptists, 1925–2000: A Story of Cooperation.

In Adolph Rupp and the Rise of Kentucky Basketball, James Duane Bolin examines one of the country's storied college programs during a tumultuous time in our nation's history. -- Wall Street Journal

"Rupp" is meticulously researched (not unexpected given Bolin's stellar academic credentials and larger-than-life reputation as a scholar), with 38 pages of source notes at the conclusion of the Introduction, 14 chapters and Epilogue that form the architecture for this comprehensive exploration of a subject many in the commonwealth take almost as seriously as they do their religious convictions. The book also includes a 24-page black-and-white photo album in the center that helps to bring the text to life in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. I spent a considerable amount of time perusing these vintage pictures that span not only his coaching career, but his entire life as well....It would be hard to digest this manuscript without developing an enthusiasm for the monumental contributions of Rupp to intercollegiate athletics on multiple levels. At the same time, Bolin was careful to present an accurate portrait of Rupp, blemishes and all, an individual who was a product of the times in which he lived and worked. His views on race, for example, are the focus of the 11th chapter, "Rupp and Race," which provides a balanced treatment of the issue at hand. Remember, Rupp was in the national spotlight during the height of the civil rights movement....I really enjoyed this one and my guess is that many readers - especially in this part of the country - will want to add it to their bookshelves. Highly recommended. -- Daily News, Bowling Green, KY

Coach Adolph Rupp is an historic figure who looms larger than life. In this extremely well-written and researched biography, Bolin has scoured newspaper articles, oral histories, and secondary sources to present Rupp’s story, literally from cradle to grave. This book will be the standard and enduring biography of Rupp for years to come. -- John Thelin, University of Kentucky

Legions of Big Blue Nation followers may deify Rupp as the man who created a basketball dynasty, but the author shows Rupp to be different things to different people: a loving father, a devoted husband, a loyal friend, a benevolent boss to his secretary and farm manager, a boss suspicious of his assistant coaches, a martinet in khakis to his players, and a racial conundrum. This book chronicles his success while, at times, it strips the Rupp legend down to the studs. It is a "warts and all" examination of a very complex, self-centered, but highly successful basketball coach and businessman. -- James W. Miller, author of Integrated: The Lincoln Institute, Basketball, and a Vanished Tradition

James Duane Bolin puts Adolph Rupp’s life under the microscope in this meticulously researched book. Bolin takes readers on an engaging journey, from Rupp’s humble Mennonite upbringing in rural Kansas to his recollection of playing with his first basketball made out of a gunnysack, and on to Lexington, Kentucky, where he became one of the most successful and controversial coaches in college basketball history. There’s no agenda here beyond a frank effort to understand the legacy of Adolph Rupp. -- Doug Brunk, author of Forty Minutes to Glory: Inside the Kentucky Wildcats’ 1978 Championship Season

This detailed and richly researched biography is written in a clear and engaging manner that reflects the work of a historian at the top of his game. Bolin is definitely fully engaged with Adolph Rupp’s multi-faceted life and has demonstrated his mastery of his wide-ranging sources. An excellent book! -- Richard O. Davies, Distinguished Profess or History, Emeritus, University of Nevada, Reno