Billionaire Joe Craft at nexus of Kentucky basketball, coal and politics

Joe Craft Center - photo from
Center – photo from

By 7:45 a.m. Sept. 18, a crowd had gathered under the white tent between the Center and the new Wildcat Coal Lodge at the University of Kentucky. Despite steady rain, the tent was filled with an assortment of movers, shakers and boosters, excited to see the unveiling of a statue of former Coach Joe B. Hall.

Joseph W. Craft III got out of his white Chevy Tahoe with a Friends of Coal license plate and made his way to the tent, greeting people with hellos and handshakes. He moved through the tent with little fanfare — a quiet conversation with Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, a handshake with Board of Trustees Chairman Britt Brockman — displaying the low-key assuredness of a billionaire coal operator who makes things happen.