A host of collegiate coaches have had their measure of success. A post-season tournament appearance here, a conference championship there, maybe even a string of a couple of those in a row. Where University of Louisville head basketball coach Denny Crum stands out from the norm is the incredible success and consistency that has followed in his path through his 29 seasons with the Cardinals. He has long been regarded as one of the game’s outstanding coaches, building upon his reputation with each year’s additional success stories. He’s been admirably labeled “Cool Hand Luke” by college commentator Al McGuire, a just assessment from one of the college game’s all-time greats. He, like countless others, has watched Crum and his teams throughout the years and has yet to see the Louisville coach “lose his cool” in a pressure situation which might mean the difference between winning and losing. Crum’s extraordinary coaching career has earned him an honor bestowed upon a select few who have impacted the game of basketball — induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 9, 1994. He is the only active collegiate coach in the Hall of Fame. Since his arrival at Louisville in 1971, Crum’s accomplishments have been astonishing, of legendary proportions so to speak. Very few college coaches could match his team’s accomplishments against Crum and hope to come out ahead. No coach accomplished as much as Crum in college basketball during the decade of the 1980′s. Six times he has guided the Cardinals into the NCAA Final Four, including four times during the decade of the ’80s. Only UCLA’s John Wooden, North Carolina’s Dean Smith and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski have coached more Final Four teams than Crum. He has achieved the ultimate goal of all college coaches by directing Louisville to the 1980 and the 1986 NCAA Championships, ranking him as one of only 10 coaches in NCAA history to win two or more titles. Crum has proven successful his formula of concentrating on fundamentals early in preseason without intense conditioning, playing a rugged schedule that has been consistently ranked among the nation’s toughest and developing a squad that performs its best at season’s end. He has directed the Cardinals to 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, including eight of the last nine years and 20 of the last 24. Three of his squads participated in the NIT, reaching the NIT semifinals in 1985. The Cardinals captured or shared 12 Metro Conference regular season titles and 11 post-season tournament championships under Crum’s guidance. The Cardinals have a 45-31 record in their initial five seasons in Conference USA, finishing second in the league each of the last two years. Crum has engineered the Cardinals to 20 or more victories in an amazing 21 of 29 seasons, ranking him eighth in all-time 20-win seasons — a mark even more impressive considering U of L annually plays one of the nation’s toughest schedules. His teams have won an average of over 24 games per season while losing nine games a year. If Crum were to go winless over the next four years, he would still maintain an average of over 20 wins per season. The second-fastest coach to win 600 career games, Crum’s achievements will enable him to enter college basketball history as one of the game’s all-time successful coaches. His .706 winning percentage ranks him 14th among active coaches and No. 41 on the all-time list, a 663-276 record entering his 30th season. His NCAA Tournament mark is 42-23 and he has won 32 of his last 46 games (70 percent) in the post-season event. Crum’s longevity with U of L is also notable. He is tied for second behind Mt. St. Mary’s Jim Phelan on the list of current coaches with the most years at their current school (29). He is seventh in most games coached (908) among active coaches and is 15th in all-time coaching victories, one behind John Wooden. Crum signed a four-year contract extension in 1998 which can be rolled over annually. He has served on the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Board of Directors since 1989 and currently is past president of the organization. He was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990. Crum has reached many major milestones in his career, including becoming U of L’s all-time winningest coach in 1991, passing 23-year Cardinal coach Bernard “Peck” Hickman. Certainly, championships and impressive milestones are important for a coach. But Crum’s legacy extends well beyond the basketball court. He has served as a generous ambassador for the university, city and state he has represented and rallied his community with an embodiment of the word class. Despite the demands of his job, he has given massive amounts of his time to the community to which he has endeared some 2,000 miles from his youthful home in California. The man simply has a difficult time with the word “no” in helping any worthwhile cause. Even with Crum’s lengthy list of accomplishments in mind, many refer to Crum as “a better person than he is a basketball coach,” a fitting statement about a truly special person. A 63-year old native of San Fernando, California, Crum attended Pierce Junior College and went on to play for John Wooden at UCLA. Crum earned special recognition during his playing days with the Bruins. He received the Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Trophy, an award presented annually to the outstanding first year varsity player. Crum was honored the following year with the Bruin Bench Award, presented annually for the most improved in a player. Following his graduation in 1958 from UCLA, Crum stayed with the Bruins as the freshman coach before eventually returning to Pierce Junior College as its head coach. After four successful seasons at Pierce, Crum returned to UCLA in 1968 where he served as Wooden’s top assistant coach and chief recruiter until his move to Louisville in 1971. He became Louisville’s 17th head coach, succeeding John Dromo. An avid reader and collector of Louis L’Amour westerns, Crum spends time away from the hectic world of college basketball playing golf, fishing and working with thoroughbred horses. He and his son Robert Scott live on a farm in Jeffersontown, Ky.
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