A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jamie Vaught: SEC basketball fixture Joe Dean Jr. has fond memories of days at UK

Popular SEC broadcaster and former UK assistant coach Joe Dean Jr. interviews John Calipari at Rupp Arena in 2013 (Jamie Vaught Photo)

Popular SEC broadcaster and former UK assistant coach Joe Dean Jr. interviews John Calipari at Rupp Arena in 2013 (Jamie Vaught Photo)


Like his late famous father, Joe Dean Jr. is a fixture in SEC basketball.

And the younger Dean has been doing a lot of TV broadcasting in covering the SEC games over the years. Just like his humble dad, Joe Dean Sr., who was a very popular broadcaster who famously came up with the legendary “String Music” phrase on SEC telecasts when the basketball swished through a net.

[widgets_on_pages id=”Jamie”]

In addition to his broadcasting duties, Dean Jr. once played basketball at Mississippi State and later served as an assistant coach for Joe B. Hall at UK for six years during the late 1970s and the early 1980s, including Kentucky’s 1978 national championship team.

The likeable Dean Jr. currently spent this past season as a television basketball analyst for the new SEC Network and will be working as a radio broadcaster in next week’s SEC Tournament in Nashville for the IMG Network, like he did for the past few years. He also added this will be the first SEC tourney in 20 years that he didn’t have a TV assignment.

There is one SEC tournament in the past that stands out in Dean Jr.’s memory.

“My most memorable SEC tournament as a broadcaster was the 2008 tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, when a tornado hit the Dome during a quarterfinal game between Alabama and Mississippi State, which Tim Brando and I were calling,” he wrote in an e-mail. “A miracle three-point shot by Alabama’s Mykal Riley at the buzzer sent the game into overtime, otherwise thousands of fans would have been outside leaving the Dome after the game and been in harm’s way.

“Mississippi State went on to win the game and the entire tournament was moved to Georgia Tech, where ironically, the University of Georgia (which was last in the East Division that season) won four games to win the championship.”

As you may remember, it was Georgia which upset first-year coach Billy Gillispie’s Kentucky club 60-56 in overtime in the second round of the tournament.

As for broadcasting, Dean Jr. said he got a very helpful advice from his father, who was a three-time All-SEC standout at LSU and later served as athletic director at his alma mater.

“Dad taught me to be myself and have fun,” said Dean Jr. who also is currently athletic director at Birmingham-Southern, a post he has held since 1999. “He never took himself too seriously and did not view himself as a broadcaster. He was just a lover of college basketball who was given a platform to promote SEC basketball and all of its great color, the players and coaches.”

Dean Jr. added that his father’s “favorite arena to call a game had to be Rupp Arena, especially having grown up in New Albany, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville.”

After his coaching stint at UK, Dean Jr. moved on and became the head coach at Birmingham-Southern and then at Central Florida.

Dean Jr. still has friends in Lexington and has fond memories of his six-year UK tenure. He said his most memorable moments at Kentucky were the birth of two children in 1980 (Scott) and 1982 (Leslie).

“I named my firstborn son, Robert Scott Dean, and in 1980 Alabama had an All-SEC guard named Robert Scott, nicknamed “Rah Rah.” That entire year, (UK All-American) Kyle Macy, called my baby son “Rah Rah.”

[widgets_on_pages id=”Email Signup”]

But Dean Jr. also remembers a couple of big games while at UK.

Said Dean Jr., “In 1978, we were No. 1 in the nation and played Michigan State, led by freshman sensation Magic Johnson in the regional finals in Dayton. After trailing at the half against a stingy MSU zone defense, Rick Roby began setting screens versus the zone out top and Kyle Macy dissected the zone with jump shots and free throws. That was our toughest game in the run to the ’78 national title.

“The other memorable game, mainly because of its historical significance, was the 1983 regional final versus Louisville in Knoxville. It was the first time (since the 1959 NCAA tourney) that the two programs had played each other. Jim Master hit a baseline jumper at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, where the talented Cardinals finally prevailed. It was also my last game at UK as that summer I accepted the head coaching position at Birmingham-Southern College.”

Like many folks, Dean Jr. is very impressed with the current Kentucky squad, which has been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll since the pre-season. At this writing, he was asked if the Wildcats are the greatest team he has ever seen in college basketball.

“Kentucky’s team is awesome this year on both ends of the floor, unselfish, and committed to winning,” he said. “It is impossible to select one team as the all-time greatest. Certainly this year’s UK team is in the conversation, but several of the undefeated UCLA teams in the late 60s and early 70s, led by Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, were just as great. The two-year run by Indiana in 1975 and 1976 (including a 92-90 heartbreaker to Kentucky in the 1975 NCAA Regional Final) was remarkable.”

Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball and a contributor to KyForward.com. He is the editor KySportsStyle360.com online magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle. He can be reached via e-mail at KySportsStyle360@gmail.com.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment