Thursday, March 08, 2001

Crum's reign ends at Louisville


Cardinals lose in first round of C-USA tourney

By Tim Sullivan
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOUISVILLE — Denny Crum was driving hard toward the basket when he pulled up at the free throw line.

        Leaving the floor at the end of a 30-year reign as basketball coach of the Louisville Cardinals, Crum paused to say goodbye. He faced each corner of Freedom Hall and waved to the fans who had been on their feet for many minutes. And then he was gone.

        “I don't know how to explain my emotions,” Crum said later. “I've been more than blessed. I feel like I'm one of the luckiest guys to ever come down the pike.”

        A Hall of Fame career that included 675 victories, 295 losses and two national championships ended with the indignity of a first-round loss in the Conference USA Tournament. Alabama-Birmingham, which will play Cincinnati at 7p.m. today, defeated 12-19 Louisville 74-61 amid speculation that former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino already has been anointed to succeed Crum.

        Crum promised to support his successor “100 percent” and said he was “looking forward to being a spectator, maybe even a fan. I can yell and scream and tell the coach what to do.”

        For 39 minutes, Crum looked as he customarily does — standing erect on the sideline, his left hand plunged in his pocket, his right holding a rolled-up sheet of paper. He wore a red rose in the lapel of his jacket and a poker face.

        But with 52 seconds remaining, the fans began to chant “Den-ny, Den-ny,” and Crum's steely exterior gave way to the emotions of the moment.

        “I really don't think there's a whole lot that needs to be said,” Crum said. “I made the decision a long time ago to stay here. In this business, one of the hardest things to do is to stay in one place forever.”

       



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