Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum Passes Away at 86; Led Louisville to Two National Championships

Denny Crum, the renowned Hall of Fame college basketball coach who guided Louisville to two national championships during the 1980s, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 86. A former player for John Wooden at UCLA in the late 1950s, Crum later joined Wooden’s staff as an assistant and contributed to three national titles for the Bruins. In 1971, Louisville appointed the California native as its head coach, and the program flourished under his leadership.

Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum Passes Away at 86; Led Louisville to Two National Championships
Denny Crum

Crum’s impressive coaching career included six Final Four appearances, two national championships in 1980 and 1986, and 23 NCAA tournament appearances across 30 seasons. As Louisville transitioned from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Metro Conference and finally Conference USA, Crum’s teams secured 15 regular-season conference championships in the two leagues.

In 1993, Crum became the second-fastest coach to achieve 500 victories. Known as “Cool Hand Luke” for his composed demeanor, he concluded his time at Louisville with a 675-295 record before retiring in 2001. Reflecting on Crum’s impact, former Louisville star Darrell Griffith told WDRB in 2022, “He was just so personable. … He opened up this program to the city. Everybody was welcome. People feel that.”

Crum was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2019, he was among six coaches honored with a commemorative bench surrounding Dr. James Naismith’s statue at the Springfield, Massachusetts-based hall. This recognition celebrated those who exemplified Naismith’s values, including teamwork, determination, self-respect, leadership, initiative, and perseverance.

After retiring, Crum established the “Denny Crum Scholarship Fund,” which grants scholarships to Louisville students demonstrating leadership, community service, academic achievement, and volunteer involvement. The home court at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center bears Crum’s name.

In 2017, Crum was hospitalized following a mild stroke while fishing in Alaska. He was hospitalized again two years later after suffering another stroke.

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