Celebrating Champions: New UPK Book Goes Inside UK’s 1977–78 Basketball Season

The "1978 Championship Reunion Recap" with Jack Givens. Video by Kentucky Wildcats TV.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 8, 2018) “Winning a national title ... winning it at Kentucky? There’s nothing like it. You’re always going to be remembered.” — Truman Claytor, member of University of Kentucky’s 1977–1978 NCAA National Championship team.

When the Wildcats take the court tomorrow in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis, they will return to the city that saw the university dominate and win its fifth national championship in school history 40 years ago with a team of Kentucky basketball legends.

Joe B. Hall, Jack “Goose” Givens, Rick Robey and Kyle Macy — these names occupy a place of honor in Rupp Arena and in the minds of many Wildcats fans to this day. Yet the full, behind-the-scenes story of this team’s incredible redemptive season has remained untold until now.

In “Forty Minutes to Glory: Inside the Kentucky Wildcats’ 1978 Championship Season,” published by University Press of Kentucky (UPK), author Doug Brunk presents an inside account of this celebrated squad and their championship season from summer pick-up games to UK’s 94–88 victory over the Duke University Blue Devils in the 1978 national championship game and the net-cutting ceremony to follow in the Checkerdome.

Brunk interviewed every surviving player, coach and student manager from the 1977–78 team, and he shares unbelievable tales, such as how James Lee’s father talked him out of quitting. He also reveals heart-wrenching moments, recounting the time when Jay Shidler traveled 150 miles to visit his seriously ill mother on the eve of the national semifinals game against University of Arkansas, and how Scott Courts coped with his father’s death just days before the championship game against Duke.

Published to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the national championship victory, “Forty Minutes to Glory” invites Big Blue Nation to relive a special season. Featuring chapters by Givens and Coach Hall, this engaging book is a fitting tribute to one of the most talented and determined teams ever to compete on the hardwood.

And what does UK Men’s Basketball Coach John Calipari think of the first book on the 1978 team? “The Big Blue Nation knows how much respect and admiration I have for Coach Hall and what he was able to do for this program and this university. To read the details of that magical 1978 national championship run and get a true understanding of what Coach Hall meant to his players, of how that team came together, and what that team meant to this state was incredible. It is an educational and compelling read — one every diehard Kentucky basketball fan should make sure they pick up.”

Doug Brunk, a Kentucky-raised award-winning journalist who now lives in California, has written hundreds of articles for trade and consumer publications. His previous book published by UPK is another tribute to UK basketball history, “Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories from Kentucky Basketball Greats.”

UPK, currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, is the scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, representing a consortium that includes all of the state universities, five private colleges and two historical societies. The press’ editorial program focuses on the humanities and the social sciences. Offices for the administrative, editorial, production and marketing departments of the press are found at UK, which provides financial support toward the operating expenses of the publishing operation through the UK Libraries.

Several UK basketball greats, including Givens and Robey from the 1977-78 championship team, have participated in the "University of Kentucky Athletics: Men's Basketball Oral History Project" with teammate Kyle Macy at UK Libraries' Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History. To see a list of these interviews, visit https://oralhistory.uky.edu/catalog/xt72jm23f50j.

photo of 1977-78 UK men's basketball team
photo of Mike Phillips shooting
photo of Rick Robey shooting
photo of UK's 1977-78 men's basketball team recognized at Rupp for 40th anniversary
Photo of Coach Joe B. Hall interviewed by Ravi Moss - 40th anniversary of 1978 team
photo of Maria Montgomery and Kyle Macy at 40th anniversary recognition of 78 team
photo of James Lee doing "Y" at UK/Mizzou Feb. 24 game - 40th anniversary of 78 team
photo of cover of "Forty Minutes to Glory" by Doug Brunk
photo of UPK 75th anniversary logo

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