They called him Cool Hand Luke, because he was cool and collected. Denny Crum was named the Univeristy of Louisville's head basketball coach in March of 1971. He was brash and had literally no fear. He emerged himself in the 'Lets play Kentucky” controversy right from the start with a brash lack of fear of the Wildcats. When asked if Louisville would like to play the Kentucky Wildcats. Crum said why not, we aren't scared of them. With that the rivalry was on. Crum immediately came in and put together his first team that went all the way to the Final Four, losing to the Ron King (Louisville) led Florida State Seminoles, coached by another Louisville product Hugh Durham.
His first Louisville team included 10 Louisville area players, the starters were Henry Bacon (Louisville Male High School), Jim Price (Indianapolis), Al Vilicheck (Ohio), Mike Lawhan (Louisville Seneca), Ron Thomas (Louisville Thomas Jefferson). He took this team all the way to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. Louisville knew they hired a winner. Not only did he win, but he did not back down from the so called only university in Kentucky, the UK Wilcats. Led by Adolph Rupp. The year was 1972.
In 1975 Crum took Louisville to the final four, where they would meet the Kentucky Wildcats, their biggest Rival in the state. the starters were, Phillip Bond( Louisville Manuel), Rick Wilson ( Louisville Atherton), Wesley Cox ( Louisville Male), Junior Bridgeman (Indianapolis) and Alan Murphy (Birmingham). This was Crums best team in the seventies. They met Kentucky in the Final Four and were one free throw with a few second left to going to the finals where UCLA and John Wooden awaited them. Terry Howard missed the free throws and it was not meant to be for Louisville to win a National Championship. Kentucky went on to the finals and were defeated by UCLA.
Crum took Louisville to the championship game of the NCAA tournament in 1980. They finally won it all by defeating the UCLA Bruins. This teams was led by a group of freshmans Jerry Eaves (Louisviile Ballard), Wiley Brown, Rodney McCray, Derrick Smith, Darrell Griffith (Louisville Male)
Crum went on to win his final Championship in 1986 as Louisville defeated Duke, led by Milt Wagner, Billy Thompson, Jeff Hall and Pervis (Never Nervous) Ellison, the tounaments MVP.
Crum had still more success at Louisville before he retired, replaced by Rick Pitino, Crum is a Hall of Fame Member and is responsible for the prominence that Louisville enjoys today. He put the University ofLouisville on the basketball map.