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Denzil E. "Denny" Crum (born March 2, 1937) is a former American men's college basketball coach at the University of Louisvillemarker from 1971 to 2001, compiling a 675–295 record. He guided the Cardinals to two NCAA championships (1980, 1986) and six Final Fours. Honored in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 1994, Crum is one of the major sports figures in the history of sports in Kentucky and in college basketball on a national scale. Many people consider him one of the greatest NCAA basketball coaches due to his ability to make in-game adjustments and decisions. He routinely recruited great athletes, particularly big guards and versatile forwards, and helped them become great basketball players.

As the head coach at U of L, Crum is widely credited with pioneering the now-common strategy of scheduling tough non-conference match-ups early in the season in order to prepare his teams for March's NCAA tournament, where one defeat ends the season. He also was an early user of the 2-2-1 zone press, and his teams' exciting style of play earned them the nickname "the Doctors of Dunk." Crum's prolific post-season play and calm demeanor earned him the monikers "Mr. March" and his most well-known nickname, "Cool Hand Luke."

Playing career

Crum was born in San Fernando, Californiamarker. From 1954–1956, Denny Crum played basketball at Los Angeles Pierce Collegemarker. In 1956, he transferred to UCLAmarker to play for John Wooden. While at UCLA, Crum was honored with the Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Trophy for outstanding first-year varsity player. He also received the Bruin Bench Award for most improved player the following year.

Coaching career

After graduating in 1958, Crum served as a freshman coach under John Wooden at UCLAmarker. The following year, he returned to Pierce College to serve as head coach. After four years at Pierce College, Crum was rehired by Wooden as a top assistant coach and chief recruiter. As a coach at UCLAmarker, he accompanied Wooden to three NCAA titles. He remained at UCLAmarker until his departure for Louisville in 1971.

University of Louisville, 1971–2001

In 1971, Crum was hired as head coach by the University of Louisvillemarker, taking over from John Dromo. By 1972, Crum had taken his first team to the NCAA Final Four. Crum would go on to lead the Louisville Cardinals to five more final fours (1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, and 1986). He ranks sixth all-time in number of final four appearances behind John Wooden, Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Mike Krzyzewski, and Roy Williams.

On March 24, 1980, the Cardinals became NCAA Tournament champions after defeating Crum's alma mater, UCLA, 59–54. Crum's 1980 national champions have been credited with popularizing the High-5. Six years later, Louisville would overcome Duke 72–69 for a second title. Crum is one of only eleven coaches to achieve two or more national championships. In 30 seasons, Crum took the Cardinals to 23 NCAA tournaments, where they had an overall record of 43-23.

While in the Metro Conference, the Cardinals won 12 regular season titles and 11 tournament championships. In its 19 years of naming a champion, the Metro had Louisville as first or second place 17 times.

In 1993, Crum became the second fastest coach to reach 500 wins. He ranks 16th in overall Division I wins.

Other coaching

Denny Crum coached the 1977 USA World University Team, where he won a gold medal. In 1987, he coached the Pan American team to a silver medal.

Coaching style

Crum had a number of trademark characteristics as a coach. He usually held a rolled up program in one hand during games and would often gesture with it. At Louisville, whose team colors are red and black, Crum sometimes wore a red blazer (often accompanied by a black shirt) on the sidelines.

On the court, Crum's teams were famous for running a man-to-man defense that switched on all picks. Crum was one of the few coaches to employ this strategy because it often leads to mismatches.

Offensively, Crum ran the high-post offense, one similar to that of his mentor at UCLA, John Wooden. From 1989 to 1996, four of Crum's post players (Pervis Ellison, Felton Spencer, Clifford Rozier, and Samaki Walker) were selected in the top 16 picks in the NBA draft, including three (all but Rozier) in the top ten.

Crum was also known for his ability to improvise late in games. His teams were notorious for scoring or getting a defensive stop right after timeouts, presumably because Crum would outcoach his opponents in the huddle. U of L teams under Crum were also known as "the Cardiac Cards" because some games against lesser competition were often closer than many fans expected them to be.


After winning the 1986 national championship, Crum's teams began to decline, never reaching another Final Four. Throughout the 1990s, they were consistently solid (reaching the Tournament in eight out of 10 years) but never seriously contended for a championship. The program received minor NCAA sanctions twice in the decade, though neither incident was linked to Crum.

Crum announced on his 64th birthday that he would be retiring at the end of the season. Though Crum insisted the decision was his, it is widely rumored that Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich drove him out to pursue the recently available Rick Pitino.

Head Coaching Record


In the 1980s, Crum was named National Coach of the Year three times (1980, 1983, 1986). He was awarded Metro Conference Coach of the year three times (1979, 1980, 1983). In 1980, he was also named the Sporting News Coach of the Year, the Basketball Weekly Coach of the Year, and the Basketball Weekly Man of the Year.

In 1994 Crum was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famemarker.

In 2002, Crum received the Legends of Coaching award given by the John R. Wooden Award Committee. This award recognizes "a coach's character, success rate on the court, graduating rate of student athletes, [and] his coaching philosophy".

On February 7, 2007, Louisville's home floor at Freedom Hallmarker was officially named "Denny Crum Court."

Personal life

Since 2001, Denny Crum is married to Susan Sweeney Crum. He has three children, Cynthia, Steve and Scott, from a previous marriage. He lives in Louisvillemarker and has a hunting ranch in Idaho.

Crum currently co-hosts a local radio talk show with former University of Kentuckymarker head coach Joe B. Hall which airs on WKRD. The Joe B. and Denny Show is the top Fox Sports radio show in the state of Kentucky.

He also plays professional poker and collects western novels by Louis L'Amour. For the past twenty years, Crum has also bred horses.

Crum is still active at the University of Louisville, serving as a special assistant to university president James Ramsey and appearing at various functions with former Cardinal and pro-basketball player Darrell Griffith.

See also


  1. Profile at the Wooden Award website
  2. The official site of the Joe B. and Denny Show - Denny Crum Bio
  3. - NCB - The Denny Crum Legacy
  4. High five
  5. Player Bio: Denny Crum :: Men's Basketball
  6. Official Website of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame - Hall of Famers
  7. - NCB - Crum retiring after season
  8. Denny Crum's profile on Master Basketball Coaches
  9. Wooden Award - Athletics
  10. Crum legacy comes full circle with dedication of court
  11. KET - People: Susan Sweeney Crum
  12. The official site of the Joe B. and Denny Show - About The Show
  13. Denny Crum's professional poker player bio
  14. Denny Crum's Profile at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association

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