Denny Crum: More than just basketball

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 12:39 PM EDT|Updated: May. 16, 2023 at 12:59 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On the basketball court his accomplishments are widely acknowledged, but away from the hardwood Coach Denny Crum cherished a special relationship in his adopted hometown.

“The reason I stayed in Louisville was because of the people here and their love for what I did,” he said.

What he did was win two national championships for the University of Louisville in 1980 and 1986.

“One of the things that makes Louisville really special is that we don’t have the predominance of professional sports here,” the former coach reflected.” We don’t have, but we have AAA baseball, but not major league baseball. And everybody is a college sports fan.”

Basketball wasn’t the only sport in Coach Crum’s life. He even owned horses that won races at Churchill Downs, and when it came to finding new talent for his revered teams, he leaned on a Derby City native who carried a lot of influence. Coach Crum took pride in his relationship with Muhammad Ali.

He said, “I can remember talking to Muhammad. I’d ask him, I’d say, would you call this recruit for us and, and help us recruit him to come to Louisville, because he was such a big supporter of, not just, not the university per se, but Louisville in general.”

Well known in the ring, Muhammad Ali worked behind the scenes attracting new players to the University of Louisville. Ironically, Ali won his draft battle against the government during the Vietnam War in 1971 which was the same year Coach Crum came to our city.

“I mean, Muhammad really did not believe in war,” Crum said. “I mean he didn’t believe it. So, and that, and he was man enough to stand up and make that stand.”

As much as coaching contributed to his character, it was a well embraced love affair with the fans and this city that kept him in Kentucky’s largest city.

“One of the reasons I stayed here, coach 30 years here was because of the support that you get here, people, they absolutely love what you do. And then that makes wanting to be here really easy.”