In the most recent installment in his coaches interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with former UMES basketball coach Kirkland Hall. Hall has contributed to the school in a number of ways and ranks third in school history with 79 wins. Coach Hall also managed the baseball (school's all-time wins leader) and softball (third in school history in wins) teams during his career at UMES.
Jon Teitel: You lettered in both baseball and basketball during your time at UMES. Which sport did you enjoy more, and which one were you better at?
Kirkland Hall: I lettered in basketball for three years. I enjoyed both sports but my greatest thrills came in basketball, playing with and against so many great players. I believe that my best sport was baseball because my size (5'8") did not prevent me from having the little success I enjoyed, as I made the All-MEAC baseball team in both my junior and senior years.
JT: How did you get into coaching, and what did it mean to you to become coach at your alma mater?
KH: I was fortunate that many of my uncles were managers and coaches for a semi-pro Negro League baseball team called the Oaksville Eagles that was started in 1910 in Somerset County, MD. As I observed them managing/coaching, I knew that was what I wanted to do in life. While in college I coached baseball in the county little league and coached basketball for a youth team during my senior year. It was the greatest thrill in my life to be invited back to coach at UMES. It was only four years after the school appeared in the NIT, and the basketball team had begun to struggle, so when I when I was offered the position of head coach I was really excited to have the opportunity to rebuild our program.
JT: You did not have any scholarship players. How were you able to recruit players, and how could you compete with teams who did offer scholarships?
KH: Unfortunately the institution was undergoing serious financial woes and I was told that scholarship money was out of the question, but that did not deter me from working hard and spending countless hours attempting to build a respectable program. I basically contacted former teammates, opponents, and as many coaches as I could urging them to send their players to us. I also served as an instructor in the Physical Education department, so academics were a high priority that I kept in mind when recruiting. We were blessed that we were able to bring in players who were considered borderline athletes but ended up being great players. During my own playing tenure at UMES I was not a scholarship athlete, but through hard work I had a pleasant career. The players we recruited just seemed to develop chemistry with each other, and they all stayed in school until they graduated.
JT: Your 125 wins are the most by a baseball coach in school history. What made you such a good baseball coach, and do you think anyone will ever break your record?
KH: It was a struggle but I must give credit to the student-athletes who chose to come to UMES. These students were responsible for their own expenses but did not make any excuses. We basically spent 4 days in practice working on fundamentals and learning the game of baseball. We presently have a guy at UMES whom I consider to be a great baseball coach, and I believe that he will eclipse my record very soon. My success was not just limited to baseball, as I also have the distinction of having the third most wins by a basketball coach with 79 and the third most wins by a softball coach with 102.
JT: You served as the softball coach at UMES. What is the biggest difference between coaching men and women, and what is your favorite sport to coach?
KH: Most of my life has been devoted to coaching males; therefore I was forced to use a different approach when coaching females. I believe that I accepted more excuses while coaching females. My favorite sport to coach was not softball or baseball, but rather basketball. In basketball, numerous strategies can be used to hide the less-talented players on the team, but it is difficult to win games in softball unless you have a great pitcher.
JT: You have the longest tenure of any coach in school history. What is the key to sticking around for so long, and what do you hope to do in the future?
KH: I feel that I was blessed with the ability to coach a number of different sports, and had a certain degree of success in each of them. Most of the teams that I coached were competitive on the court/field. I credit my longevity to the undergraduate classes I took (especially the class in the coaching of sports) and the coaches who I came into contact with as I matriculated at UMES. During my years as a coach I also served as an instructor in the Department of Physical Education, and I am now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Most of all I enjoyed what I did, and I would love to coach basketball again on some level. After 6 years of coaching basketball and then becoming the interim director of athletics of UMES for five years, the school decided to combine the position of director of athletics and director of physical education. The following year the basketball coaching job became vacant and I applied, but it was thought that I had been out of coaching that sport for too long in order to have any success, thus I was denied the second opportunity.
JT: You and your wife Betty have raised a total of 10 children. How do you like having a big family, and is it harder to be a coach or a father of 10?
KH: Having a household of 10 was not in our original plans. However, my wife and I are both divorcees and each brought five children into our second marriage. Those early years together were some of the most enjoyable of my life. Since all of our children are now adults, we have adopted three additional children: Damon is 14, Catherine is 6, and Sheryln is 4. It is definitely more difficult to be a father than to be a coach because all of my kids call me an old man!
JT: In the 1990s you got the ACLU involved in the right to vote in municipal elections on the Eastern Shore. How did you get involved with that, and how happy were you with the outcome?
KH: The issue was that out-of-state property owners were not only allowed to vote in municipal elections, but were also allowed to vote in the area in which they resided. We were opposed to citizens having voting privileges in both the county and in municipalities during elections, as we believed that everyone was allowed to vote once and only once. The ACLU agreed and supported us in the courts, and we were victorious. In 1991, a veteran civil rights worker approached me and encouraged me to devote more of my time to the community and the issues it confronted. That same year I was elected President of the Somerset County Branch NAACP, and have been involved in civil rights issues ever since. In 1993, the NAACP and the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the State of Maryland to ensure minority representation in the state house in Annapolis. We were happy with the results, and have won several victories in the civil rights arena since.
JT: You currently serve as president of the Somerset chapter of the NAACP. Why did you want to become president, and what have you been able to accomplish so far?
KH: I was convinced to take part after speaking with a number of seniors who wanted to see a change in Somerset County, and the urging of my children to get more engaged in their education pursuits. In 1990 the NAACP was not active, and I was elected to serve as its president. We have filed four lawsuits so far, and are in the process of filing another one very soon with the Department of Justice against the Somerset County government and their faulty hiring process.
JT: When people look back on your career, how do you want to be remembered the most?
KH: I want people to remember me as someone who was always willing to help people in need, to make them the best student athlete they could possibly be, and who always did the best that I was able to do.
Coach Hall is also on Jon's list of best coaches in MEAC history.
Bethune-Cookman: Clifford Reed (2001-present) 104-153
Coppin State: Ron "Fang" Mitchell (1986-present) 379-343, four NCAA Tournament appearances, 10 conference titles, six-time conference Coach of the Year
Delaware State: Greg Jackson (2000-present) 157-148, one NCAA Tournament appearance, three conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Florida A&M: Mike Gillespie (2001-2007) 90-94, two NCAA Tournament appearances, two-time conference Coach of the Year
Hampton: Steve Merfeld (1997-2002) 90-57, two NCAA Tournament appearances, two conference titles, one-time conference Coach of the Year
Howard: Frankie Allen (2000-2005) 52-93
Maryland Eastern Shore: Kirkland Hall (1976-1984) 79-131
Morgan State: Chris Fuller (1995-2001) 53-115
Norfolk State: Charles Christian (1973-1978, 1981-1990) 319-95, seven conference titles, four-time conference Coach of the Year
N.C. A&T: Don Corbett (1979-1993) 254-145, seven NCAA Tournament appearances, seven conference titles, six-time conference Coach of the Year
South Carolina State: Cy Alexander (1987-2003) 276-200, five NCAA Tournament appearances, six conference titles, three-time conference Coach of the Year