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Denny Crum, the Hall of Fame college basketball coach who led Louisville to two national championships in the 1980s, died Tuesday at the age of 86.
Karam played college basketball under John Wooden at UCLA in the late 1950s, then joined the Bruins as an assistant under Wooden, helping the program to three national titles during his time there. Louisville hired the California native as its coach in 1971, and the program came to national prominence under his guidance.
Crum has led the Cardinals to the Final Four six times—winning national titles in 1980 and 1986—and made the NCAA Tournament 23 times in his 30 seasons. He oversaw Louisville’s transition from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Metro Conference to Conference USA, and his teams won 15 regular season conference championships across the two different leagues.
In 1993, Crum became the second-fastest coach to win 500 games. Nicknamed “Cool Hand Luke” for his calm demeanor, he had a 675-295 mark in Louisville before retiring in 2001.
“They don’t make them like the coach anymore. Coach Crum was the kind of coach that everyone gravitated to,” former Louisville star Darryl Griffith told WDRB in 2022. It was so neat…it opened this program up to the city. Everyone is welcome. People feel that.”
Karam was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994. Nearly 25 years later, he was one of six coaches honored with a memorial seat around a statue of Dr. James Naismith outside the Springfield, Massachusetts auditorium. Naismith officials said the honor was for a group that embodies the values of the hall’s namesake: teamwork, determination, self-esteem, leadership, initiative, and perseverance.
After retirement, Crum started the “Denny Crum Scholarship Fund,” which awards scholarships to Louisville to students who demonstrate “a commitment to leadership and community service, academic achievement and volunteer involvement.” Louisville’s KFC Yum! The center is named after him.
Krum was hospitalized in 2017 after doctors said he suffered a mild stroke while hunting in Alaska. Two years later, he was hospitalized again after suffering another stroke.
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