Louisville basketball legend Denny Crum passes away

Unknown Date; Cincinnati, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Louisville head coach Denny Crum on the sidelines during the 1994 season. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Unknown Date; Cincinnati, OH, USA; FILE PHOTO; Louisville head coach Denny Crum on the sidelines during the 1994 season. Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports /

Denny Crum. A name immortalized in the city of Louisville. The California native took over at the University of Louisville in 1971 and would go on to change the course of basketball in the Cardinals’ program forever.

Playing Career (1955-1958)

During his playing career, he transferred from Los Angeles Pierce College, a community college in Los Angeles, to UCLA. As a Bruin, he played for the legendary Head Coach John Wooden in 1956 and would go on to win the Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Trophy, an award signifying an outstanding first-year varsity player.

He would continue playing collegiate basketball through the 1958 season, and upon graduating he did not enter the NBA Draft. Instead, he went right into coaching. He began coaching the freshman at UCLA for the 1959-1960 season and would remain there until 1961.

Coaching Career (1959-2001)

After leaving the Bruins, he went back to coach at the community college he attended prior to UCLA, Pierce College. He was an assistant for two years before becoming their head coach. But, John Wooden wanted him back on the Bruins sideline and hired him back in 1967 to be a chief recruiter.

That was his final stop before becoming the Louisville Cardinals Head Coach in 1971, where he would spend the next thirty years of his life. It only took him one year before he took the Cardinals to their first Final Four in 1972, and lost to his former coach and colleague, John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins.

UCLA would go on to win the National Championship that year, which was their sixth straight title. John Wooden’s Bruins were a powerhouse. But, Denny Crum’s Cardinals were on the rise and he took them to the National Championship in 1980, where they would go on to win the title against none other than the UCLA Bruins.

At this point in time, John Wooden was not the Head Coach any longer. Wooden left his post on the Bruins bench in 1975. Denny Crum defeated another future legendary coach, Larry Brown. Following the championship title, he would take Louisville to the Final Four in 1982 and 1983 before winning the title again in 1986.

On that 1986 team, Denny Crum had a familiar face on his roster, current Louisville Head Coach Kenny Payne. During that season, Payne came off the bench and averaged 3.6 points per game. But, by his senior year, he was averaging nearly 15 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Denny Crum ended his coaching career in 2001 with a resume that included 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, 2 National Championships, 8x Coach of the Year awards, and an overall record of 675-295. A resume like this got him inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Leaving a Louisville Legacy

When you think of Louisville basketball, the names Denny Crum and Rick Pitino are synonymous with it. Without Denny Crum, the Louisville basketball program would not have the same respect and status as a college basketball powerhouse.

Last year, the University of Louisville built a new dorm hall for student-athletes and named it “Denny Crum Hall,” a project that surpassed $23 million dollars. His name will not only live in our hearts forever, but it will also live on the top of that dorm hall.

Denny Crum changed the course of basketball in the city of Louisville forever and now passes it on to one of his former players, Kenny Payne.

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