How Did a Personal Visit From Legendary Coach Adolph Rupp Lead to a Top Recruit NOT Playing for Kentucky?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about basketball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the basketball urban legends featured so far.

FOOTBALL URBAN LEGEND: Dick Grubar was prepared to commit to playing at Kentucky until Adolph Rupp made a personal visit to his family.

One of the most powerful tools that a college coach has in recruiting players is the home visit. Especially the famous coaches, those that have won multiple titles and are legends in their own times. In fact, these visits are so persuasive that the NCAA nowadays limits them (so Nick Saban can’t show up at your house constantly to convince you to come play for him).

Back in the 1960s, though, there was more or less free reign, and coaches like The University of Kentucky’s Aolph Rupp, at the time the coach with the most wins in college basketball history, drew in players like honey drawing in flies.

Amazingly enough, though, in the case of Dick Grubar, it was Rupp who turned him from a “yes” on Kentucky to a “no.”

Grubar was a highly recruited high school player out of Schenectady, New York. He was friends with Pat Riley, who was a few years older than Grubar and a star player at Kentucky. Riley told Grubar he had to come to Kentucky. They worshiped basketball players there. Grubar was on board.

And then Adolph Rupp visited Schenectady for a Christmas Basketballl Tournament.

Grubar later recalled the visit, “He never talked about any of his players. All he talked about was all of his own success. It was all about him. It was unbelievable.”

Grubar also noted his discomfort with the size of Rupp’s entourage when they visited the Grubars’ humble abode, “There must have been 15-16 people. And they all decided to come to my house. At my house, you could maybe sit six people comfortably. But Rupp brought all these people into my house, and at the time it really embarrassed my parents. They had all these people just standing around because we didn’t have chairs for them. It never even bothered Rupp, though. He just continued to talk about himself, what he’d done and how many wins he had.”

So Grubar changed his mind and opened himself up to other schools, ultimately choosing the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose young coach, Dean Smith, was prepared to let the six foot four Grubar play point guard (other schools thought he was too tall to be a guard). Grubar helped lead UNC to its first three Final Four appearances, although he did not win a title with UNC.

Injuries derailed Grubar’s chance at a professional basketball career. He worked as an assistant coach for a number of years before leaving basketball for good to become a businessman and later a politician in North Carolina (Greensboro, to be precise).

Years later, Grubar counseled Dean Smith to stick with his coaching long enough so that Smith would pass Rupp in the all-time wins category. Smith did just that, passing Rupp before Smith retired in 1997 (Smith himself has since been passed by three other coaches, although one of them, Jim Boeheim, has since had wins taken away from him by the NCAA).

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Scott Fowler and Woody Durham’s book, North Carolina Tar Heels: Where Have You Gone?, for the great Grubar quotes.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]

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