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'He set a standard that will never be replaced': Mourners say final goodbyes to Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum

As visitors filed in to pay their respects, some recounted stories of Crum’s influence on their lives within the community.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Monday, hundreds gathered at Southeast Christian Church for the visitation and funeral services for Denny Crum.

The legendary UofL basketball coach died last week at 86 years old.

As visitors filed in to pay their respects, some recounted stories of Crum’s influence on their lives within the community.

Ricky Rucker looked back on the time Crum came to a basketball day camp when he was a teenager and Crum told the young men not to embarrass him.

“He set a standard that will never be replaced, no matter who comes in there as a coach. He set a standard, a real high bar,” Rucker said.

At 2 p.m., hundreds gathered in the church sanctuary for a funeral service which speakers described as more of a celebration of Crum’s life.

Those who stood before the crowd included former players, coaches and friends.

“I never worked for Denny Crum, I worked with Denny Crum, and I’ll always remember that and be appreciative of what he did for me,” Jerry Jones, a former assistant coach with Crum, said. “He was a friend, he was a best friend.”

In a service spanning just over an hour, they told stories about Crum’s coaching style, marked by his calm, cool demeanor.

“He could motivate you without screaming or cursing in fact in four years playing for him I never heard him curse,” Roger Burkman said. “It was just his nature to coach, it didn’t matter if we were playing golf or fishing or playing corn hole, you were going to get coached.”

They also shared other memories of Crum’s one-liners, fishing trips and the way he treated those around him.

“People talked about Coach saying he visited my child in the hospital, he came to my birthday party,” Jonathan Israel, with the University of Louisville, said. “He told me I didn’t know how to drive, taught me to fish, told me to improve my golf swing.”

Credit: WHAS-TV
The casket of Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum with his photo next to it is shown during a funeral service at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville on May 15, 2023.

“So when I reflected, I decided I would say ‘I will be better the next day,’ because Coach Crum always said ‘you got what you deserved today, so do better tomorrow.’ That’s what I will do,” he said.

Crum’s wife, Susan, who spoke with WHAS11 last week attended the service and greeted visitors. Minister Bob Russell shared part of their love story.

“He admitted that’s the best thing he ever did in his life,” Russell said. “He always called her ‘here’s my bride, here’s my lovely bride,’ and she admitted ‘all Denny wanted to do was to make me happy, and he did that.”

In his speech, Junior Bridgeman, said Crum’s was a life not lived in vain. Bridgeman added the service wasn’t a goodbye.

Just after 3 p.m., Crum’s casket made its way out of the church and into a hearse ahead of a private burial.

Credit: WHAS-TV
A Louisville Cardinals flag is draped at the entrance at Cave Hill Cemetery ahead of Denny Crum's funeral procession. He will be buried at the cemetery.

Contact reporter Grace McKenna at GMcKenna@whas11.com or on Facebook or Twitter.  

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