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Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Adolph Rupp's Dilemma About Brad Lair's Bed

Brad Lair played basketball for the Monticello, Kentucky Mountaineers from 1928 through 1930. At 6'10 1/2, he was the tallest high school player in the state of Kentucky at that time. He towered over his opponents and newspaper reports noted his basketball skills regularly, but one teammate, Bill Wray, would later say the Lair's greatest asset was not his heighth, but his agility. During his junior year, he scored 50 points in a game against Whitley City on January 10, 1930. He scored 33 points in the first half alone. Also on that team other than Lair and Wray was Frank Hedrick, Jack Phillips, Red Wilson, Roy Barrier, Sidney Back and William Gottshall. The coach was George Taylor.

Prior to the 1930-1931 season, Lair left Monti­cello to play his senior year at Jeffersonville, Indiana. The Red Devils won fifteen straight games without a loss because of him, but prior to the end of the season tournament, the school at New Albany filed a protest that 'unique influence' had been used to bring Lair to Jeffersonville. The Indiana High School Athletic Association agreed and suspended all athletics at Jeffersonville until the first day of June 1931.

Even though he had only played a total of just barely three years of high school ball, the media exposure he received at Jeffersonville attracted the attention of the new basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, Adolph Rupp.

Coach Rupp thought Lair had the greatest potential of any player he had seen up to that point, so he offered him a full scholarship and rolled out the red carpet for him, but there was a issue - finding a bed long enough to keep Lair from having to sleep 'catter-cornered' in a bed at UK. He thought about sending for Lair's bed back at home. "He lives in Monticello and has a bed there that fits him," the coach decided. "I'll bring it up here on a truck and then I'll have a hold on him."

He said he would have a 'hold on him' because he had discovered that a 'neighboring university' was trying to talk Lair out of attending UK, even though he was already enrolled there. According to a story in the Wayne County Outlook on September 29, 1932, Coach Rupp cut in on a telephone conversation between Lair and a representative from that 'northern school' and what he told that man was a masterpiece in public speaking. "If there is an extra charge for profanity over the telephone, I'd hate to see your bill this month," Rupp told UK athletics director Stanley "Daddy" Boles after slamming the phone receiver down.

By Thanksgiving, Coach Rupp was confronted with another issue: What to do about Lair's bed since the Wayne County giant had become homesick and departed Lexington for his home in Monticello. Instead of bringing Lair's bed from his home, Rupp had a nine-foot bed built for him. "But with Lair gone," wrote the Lexington Herald Leader, "Coach Rupp wants to either sell the bed or find a basketball player that will fit it. He prefers the latter."

His stint at UK wasn't the last of Brad Lair's basketball playing days. In 1934, he played for the House of David, a barnstorming comedic professional team out of Indiana whose players were famously known to wear long beards. The team lost just one game during Lair's only season with them. It was a two point loss to the Harlem Globetrotters. Like the Globetrotters, the House of David stretched and sometimes outright corrupted the rules of basketball, using their exhibition games as comedy routines – although unlike the Globetrotters, the House of David played against legitimate local teams instead of supplying their own submissive opposition.

Bradford Lair died on July 17, 1974 at the age of 61. He was inducted into the Monticello High School's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001. Mr. Lair and his wife, Louisa Conley Lair, are buried at Elk Spring Cemetery in Monticello, with two of their five children. Most people in Clinton County, Ky remember their daughter, Betty, who was the wife of Eugene Groce.

1 comment:

  1. I remember seeing him at Everett Dunigan's store at Mill Springs around 1957. The local rumor was he was 7'0".

    ReplyDelete

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