top of page

ED PEAK: Remembering U of L Coach Denny Crum

I remember my first interview with Denny Crum. I was a small-time college sports reporter from Jefferson Community College. I called his office and scheduled an interview at Crawford Gymnasium where U of L practiced. I brought a photographer with me.

Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum at Rupp Arena during their retirement years. (Photo by Jamie H. Vaught).

It didn’t matter that I was small time. He treated me like the New York Times, Washington Post or Sports Illustrated. Most coaches could care less but he remembered my name for the next 40-plus years.

I was in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Belk Bowl football game with my family and we were walking to a U of L event. Here came Denny and wife Susan who stopped and spoke with us for several minutes. I was like they were really happy to see us.

In 1985, I was at the 65 Roses Event at a local hotel and celebrities were honorary waiters. Denny was a bar tender. I couldn’t figure how he knew what or how to mix cocktails because he rarely drank.

Crum was a players coach. He dealt with players in different ways. His successor, Rick Pitino, made players run on a treadmill or do reps on a stationary bicycle when making mistakes during practice. I never knew of Crum doing this.

One night in Bowling Green after a Louisville upset of No. 8 Western Kentucky during the 1986-87 season, Crum met the media outside the Cardinals dressing room. Hilltopper fans started yelling things at Crum that I can’t print. Sports Information Director Kenny Klein ordered them to just move on. Crum just smiled.

Al McGuire, the former Marquette coach turned NBC television analyst, termed the phrase, “Cool Hand Luke.” Denny was definitely easy going.

When Kentucky and Louisville met in the NCAA Mideast Regional championship at Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville during March 1983, it was billed as the “Dream Game.” It turned out just that. Louisville won 80-68 in overtime.

Joe B. Hall, a long-time proponent of not playing Louisville following the Adolph Rupp days, and the Wildcats were forced to play. Then Kentucky and Louisville opened the 1983-84 season. Both teams met twice that season, including the second time in Rupp Arena during the NCAA Tournament as UK won on the way to the Final Four.

Years later, Hall retired after the 1985 season and Crum in 2001 going 675-295 during his 30 years. Down in Alabama, former Crimson Tide coach Wimp Sanderson and Auburn coach Sonny Smith had a radio show. Someone came up with the idea for a Joe B. And Denny show. They made appearances at the Kentucky boys' state basketball tournament, and had a run in Louisville and Lexington.

In the Lexington Herald-Leader, a photo of the two at courtside showed Joe B. reaching into a box of popcorn for a handful as Denny looked away.

Crum’s teams won two national titles -- 1980 with the great Darrell Griffith and 1986 with freshman “Never Nervous Pervis” Ellison. A total of six teams advanced to The Final Four and 23 were invited to the NCAA.

He passed at home Tuesday at age 86 with his wife Susan. His legacy will live on forever.

Ed Peak has covered U of L sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

Edward Jones AD.jpg
bottom of page