New book takes a look at the history of UK’s home courts

Published 4:15 pm Monday, December 12, 2022

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Most Kentuckians are familiar with the University of Kentucky basketball world- big wins, losses, and famous coaches and players.

The story of the UK team is told repeatedly in books and articles, but Jessamine County’s Kevin Cook has released a new book titled “House of Champions: The Story of Kentucky Basketball’s Home Courts.” According to Cook, this book goes deeper into UK basketball lore than ever before.

Cook’s connection to Jessamine County and Kentucky starts with his father, who attended Asbury University to become a Navy chaplain. Having grown up in a Navy family, Cook lived all over America. However, he did spend some of his time in elementary and high school in Jessamine County. He traveled quite a bit as an adult but settled back in Jessamine County in the 2000s.

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Having a degree in American history and engineering, Cook has always wanted to write a history book. However, he thought that when it came to UK’s team, everything had been written. He has had a long-lived interest in the construction and history of sports venues- and realized there wasn’t a book written about UK’s basketball venues before. “

So that’s what I set out to do,” Cook said. “I put my love of history and UK basketball together and filled in what I thought was a pretty sizable missing piece in their story.”

It took four and a half years for Cook to write this book due to juggling a full-time job and countless hours of research before he could even start writing.

The book uses primary sources, old photos of the different arenas, interviews with coaches and players from the archives, and some done by Cook himself. He takes the reader through UK basketball and Lexington history from 1903 to 1976.

From the primary sources, Cook retells the move from Alumni Gymnasium, built in 1924, to Memorial Coliseum, built in 1950, and eventually, Rupp Arena in 1976. He says he wrote the chapters in a first-person, “you are there” perspective, following one game per arena in the team’s history.

Cook said one of his favorite parts of this book is depicting, through history, the infamous UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp. Although Cook disagrees with many things Rupp believed, he finds him a fascinating character.

“As a historical figure, he never gets old,” Cook said, continuing that it’s difficult to understand his success and what made him tick, as his personality mainly consisted of a large ego and a desire to be at the center of attention. “Why was he so successful when other coaches were not?” Cook said.

Memorial Coliseum was built during Rupp’s hay day as a coach, so he had a lot of input in the construction.

Although some of the facts about previous coaches aren’t new to the public, Cook still found new tidbits in his research. For example, when looking closely at UK Archive photos, he “found out a lot of things about the arenas from looking at the pictures, which is, I think, the other part that I didn’t expect from my research.”

Since this book provides history, politics, architecture, and basketball on a single platter, Cook says it can’t be pigeonholed. Still, he said there’s plenty of basketball talk, even with the variety offered.

Because he used primary sources, Cook said, “I guarantee there are things in there that no matter how big of a UK basketball fan, readers will find something new.”

Cook said this book has something for all ages, so he hopes his writing can bring all Big Blue Nation fans closer together, connecting the generations. He said this book may remind older fans of “a fond memory and take them back in time.” and that for the younger fans, he hopes they’ll gain understanding and appreciation of “not just University of Kentucky basketball, but why these arenas, you know, are so beloved by the fan base and maybe better understand, you know, a memory that a parent or grandparents shared with them.”

“House of Champions: The Story of Kentucky Basketball’s Home Courts” can be found at Lexington’s Barnes and Noble and Joseph-Beth Booksellers. It can also be ordered online at