Every Cardinal diehard who was there in the moments of those halcyon days has stories.
From 1971 to 1986, it was a magic carpet ride.
Mine begin in my funky $60/ month attic apartment in the Triangle with my pal, fellow fanatic Ben. Listening on the radio to Denny Crum’s first game as Cardinal coach from Gainesville.
Cards 69, Florida 70.
Stoned I am sure and stunned, we looked at each, deflated.
It had been a strange few years for Cardinal hoops, leading up the new era.
Legendary Peck Hickman unexpectedly resigned after the ‘66-’67 campaign with his Wes Unseld-led best ever squad returning. Long time assistant John Dromo took the reins.
A couple solid but unspectacular seasons followed. Then Dromo had health issues, and had to step down. Assistant Howard Stacy moved over a chair. U of L lost 6 of its last 8.
Enough for the powers that be to understand it was time to look elsewhere. A faculty committee led by Econ prof Carl Abner did the heavy lifting. John Wooden’s right hand man was the choice.
That opening game L — thank you very much — was not a harbinger of things to come.
The Cards only lost twice again in the regular season. Both times to Memphis State. But, with an NCAA bid on the line, the Cards won the rubber match with arch rival by double digits in one of my favorite U of L games ever, the MVC playoff in Nashville.
There is no reason to recite Denny Crum’s national championship x2, HoF resume again. Anybody reading this knows it by heart.
Memories. So many memories. The Allen Murphy inbound play.
The zone that we knew was coming when the other guys put the ball into play under their hoop, but for some reason foes didn’t.
The then confounding and unusual full court press.
The banked jump shots.
How when the opponent needed to put the Cards at the line late, Denny always drew up a play that got it to Milt, even if he was triple teamed.
Oh, don’t get me started. I could go on and on and on until next season’s tipoff.
Denny Crum schooled Bobby Knight in Assembly Hall.
Denny Crum schooled Mike Krzyzewski in both Cameron Indoor and Dallas for the crown.
He twisted former assistant Dana Kirk and Lefty Dreisell over under sideways down.
He catalyzed so much joy. Tourneys, trips, titles. Not to mention the Unknown Musician, C A R D S and Go Cards Beat Purdue.
Folks, I can’t go on. Just advise it is really difficult to put in words what a wondrous time it was to be a Louisville Cardinal fan.
But must acknowledge this reality. Denny, a brilliant strategist, but a stubborn man like his mentor, did not adapt to the invocation of the three point era.
It was good for the most part, but never really the same.
Yet Denny handled his ham-handed dismissal like a mensch.
And continued to support U of L and engender his status as a pillar of the community.
We love him.
He loved us.
— c d kaplan