| Wins against Kentucky - 3 | Losses against Kentucky - 23 |
Alma Mater: Evansville 
Hometown: Tell City, IN
Date Born: September 2, 1915
Date Died: March 18, 1986
Overall Record: 355-257 [25 Seasons]
|3/9/1961||Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt||W||88 - 67||SEC Playoff (at Knoxville, TN)|
|2/21/1961||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||60 - 59||-|
|1/9/1961||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||L||62 - 64||-|
|2/16/1960||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||68 - 60||-|
|1/5/1960||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||76 - 59||-|
|2/17/1958||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||65 - 61||-|
|1/6/1958||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||86 - 81||-|
|2/18/1957||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||80 - 78||-|
|1/26/1957||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||91 - 83||-|
|2/20/1956||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||76 - 55||-|
|1/28/1956||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||L||73 - 81||-|
|2/21/1955||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||77 - 59||-|
|1/29/1955||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||75 - 71||-|
|2/22/1954||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||100 - 64||-|
|1/30/1954||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||85 - 63||-|
|2/21/1952||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||75 - 45||-|
|1/28/1952||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||88 - 51||-|
|3/3/1951||Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt||L||57 - 61||SEC Tournament Championship (at Louisville, KY)|
|2/24/1951||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||89 - 57||-|
|1/27/1951||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||74 - 49||-|
|2/25/1950||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||70 - 66||-|
|1/30/1950||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||58 - 54||-|
|2/26/1949||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||70 - 37||-|
|1/31/1949||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||72 - 50||-|
|2/20/1948||Vanderbilt at Kentucky||W||79 - 43||-|
|2/9/1948||Kentucky at Vanderbilt||W||82 - 51||-|
Obituary - Nashville Tennessean (March 19, 1986)
Former VU Coach Polk Dies
by John Bibb (Sports Editor)
Former Vanderbilt University basketball coach James Robert (Bob) Polk died yesterday afternoon at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Murfreesboro after an extended illness.
Polk, 71, was the father of the modern Commodore basketball program. He coached Vandy 13 seasons and during his career the Commodores won 197 and lost 106 games.
His first team, in 1947-48, was 8-14, and it was to be his only losing season at Vanderbilt.
Memorial services will be conducted by Rev. John Cowan tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church where he was a member. Graveside services will be at 1 p.m. (CST) Friday at the Greenwood Cemetery in Tell City, Ind.
The family will receive visitors from 7-9 p.m. today at the Westminster Presbyterian Church parlor.
A pioneer in the development of the Southeastern Conference as a hotbed of nationally recognized basketball powers, Polk resigned at Vanderbilt because of ill health after his 1960-61 team lost the SEC championship playoff with the University of Kentucky.
A heart attack in November of 1957 prevented Polk from coaching the Vandy team in 1957-58, and his young assistant, Roy Skinner, served as acting head coach.
Upon Polk's resignation, Skinner was named his successor.
"Those of us familiar with the SEC and Vanderbilt consider Bob Polk as the grandfather of modern basketball at Vandy and Roy Skinner as the father," said Commodore coach C.M. Newton. "I played against Coach Polk's team in 1951 when Vanderbilt beat us (Kentucky) in the SEC tournament finals.
"I remember how very much respect Coach Adolph Rupp had for Coach Polk. Everytime we played Vandy, Coach Rupp would warn us that we would have to be at our very best if we hoped to win. He would caution us that 'Bob Polk teams don't beat themselves.'
"Later as a young coach at Transylvania College, I would always make sure to attend Coach Polk's lectures at various meetings. He was always cordial and helpful, and though the years he gained a reputation for fairness and competitiveness.
"He was without doubt, one of the better courtside coaches in my lifetime. His teams were flexible and always strong in the second half. As the years went by, we developed a strong friendship. He will be missed by all of us at Vanderbilt. I extend my sincere condolences to his beloved Betty and the family."
Polk literally built the Vanderbilt program the floor. His first Vandy team, 1947-48, played in an abandoned military gymnasium off Thompson Lane. Vandy sold 14 season tickets that season, and before each home game Polk would go to the gymnasium early and chalk numbers on the floor in front of the season ticket holders' seats.
He came to Vanderbilt after having been an assistant at Georgia Tech. He was the school's first full-time basketball coach, hired by the late Red Sanders who determined to improve Vandy basketball after being embarrassed watching the Commodores lose to Kentucky, 98-29, in the 1947 SEC tournament.
Upon Polk's arrival, Vanderbilt began awarding basketball scholarships. An outstanding recruiter, Polk went to his native Indiana for many of his stars. As sophomore, his first recruiting class scored a major upset and gained national attention when they defeated New York University, 65-59, in Madison Square Garden.
Among those sophomores were Nashville businessmen Jack Heldman and Dave Kardokus.
"Coach Polk's death is a great loss to all of us who played for him," said Heldman, who later served as Polk's first full-time assistant. "He was truly one of the better coaches in the nation, and we will remember him as the founder of Vanderbilt basketball."
"He was a fine man and a fine coach, and beyond that he was a very dear friend who maintained his association with those of us who played for him. This entire community will miss him," said Kardokus.
George Kelley was a senior on the 1951 Vandy team that beat No. 1 ranked Kentucky in the SEC tournament finals.
"I am deeply sorry to hear of Coach Polk's death and I certainly extend my sympathies to his wonderful family. He always put all his energy into coaching. He had a great understanding for student-athletes, and certainly he is the man who put Vanderbilt basketball on the map," Kelley said.
"I learned an awful lot of basketball while working as Coach Polk's assistant," Skinner said. "I would have had a tough time making it as a head coach without the lessons I learned from him. He brought Vanderbilt basketball to the top,and during his career Memorial Gymnasium became a showplace for outstanding SEC basketball."
Dudley (Waxo) Green, retired sportswriter for The Nashville Banner, covered the Commodores during Polk's tenure.
"Bob Polk was the first coach to challenge Adolph Rupp's supremacy in the SEC. His teams were characterized by sound defenses and patient offense. Those of us close to the Vanderbilt program recognize him as the architect of Vandy basketball. He was genuinely respected by his coaching associates throughout the nation. I have lost a very dear friend," Green said.
Polk was born in Booneville,Ind., and attended high school in Tell City. He played varsity basketball at Evansville College where he received a B.A. in education. He taught at Tell City High School before entering the Navy in World War II.
After retiring as Vanderbilt coach, Polk worked on the university's medical school staff before returning to the coaching field in 1965 as head coach and athletic director at Trinity College in San Antonio, Texas. He was Southland Conference coach of the year at Trinity in 1967 and the NCAA's National College Coach of the Year in 1968.
He moved to St. Louis University in 1969 as basketball coach and assistant professor. In 1974, his final season at St. Louis, Polk was named coach of the year in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Polk became head basketball coach at Rice University in 1974 and retired from coaching in June of 1977. In September of 1977, Polk moved to Birmingham to become assistant athletic director under Gene Bartow at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He remained in that position until November of 1981 when another heart attack forced him to retire.
Polk held numerous positions in national intercollegiate programs. He was a member of the NCAA's tournament committee, a member of the NCAA's Olympic basketball committee, a trustee of the Naismith Hall of Fame, a 10-year director and president in 1974-75 of the National Basketball Coaches Association.
Polk was the son of the late Olivia Polk Winchell and Homer Polk of Booneville. He is survived by his wife, Betty Tableman Polk; a daughter Pamela Polk McKnight; son Dr. James Robert Polk Jr., of Boise Idaho; grandchildren Eben, Lyles, and Alex Polk, and Elizabeth Polk McKnight and Lee McKnight Jrs.; and sister Virginia Winchell Hargis of Irving Texas.
The family suggests memorials may be designated to the Bob Polk Memorial Scholarship Fund at Vanderbilt University. The family will receive visitors Friday at the Finch Funeral Home in Tell City, Ind., one hour before the graveside services.
Active pallbearers are Dudley Green, C.M. Newton, John Bibb, Arnold Curtis, Joe Worden, Coach Arad McCutcheon of Evansville, and Bruce Lomax. Honorary pallbearers are all former players for Coach Polk at Vanderbilt, Trinity, St. Louis and Rice: A.E. Bale, Houston; Don Leva, Houston; Arnold Kocurek, San Antonio; Coach Gene Bartow, University of Alabama-Birmingham; Coach Lee Hunt, University of Mississippi; Joe Vancisin, Branford, Conn.; Coach Bill Bibb, Mercer; Winton Smith, Jack Peeler, and Coach Roy Skinner.
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