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Denny Crum, legendary UofL basketball coach, dead at 86

Crum was a Hall of Fame coach and two-time NCAA champion.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Denny Crum, former UofL men's basketball coach from 1971 to 2001 and a beloved figure in basketball as well as the Louisville community, has died at 86.

The University of Louisville announced Crum's death on Tuesday, May 9. 

Crum began his coaching career at UCLA as an assistant under one of the most revered coaches in basketball history, John Wooden. The team would go on to win three NCAA titles with Crum’s help. He remained at UCLA until his departure for Louisville in 1971. 

The California native was hired as head coach at UofL, taking over from John Dromo. While coaching at UofL, the program dominated basketball in the 1980s, winning two NCAA championships at the school in 1980 and 1986.  

Crum won 12 Metro Conference titles and 11 conference tournaments. Louisville had 23 NCAA tournament berths and three 30-win seasons.

The Cardinals also went to six Final Fours under Crum -- in 1972, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1986.  

Crum went on to be named 'Coach of the Year' in 1980, 1983 and 1986. He was the fastest coach to win 500 games and was nicknamed "Cool Hand Luke" for his calm, cool demeanor while coaching. 

He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and credited Wooden’s guidance and friendship in helping evolve his coaching career.

He called Wooden the “Man O’ War” of coaches and the “Secretariat” of people, referencing two Kentucky Derby winners who are considered the greatest of all time.

Crums legacy in college basketball and at the University of Louisville will have an effect on generations to come.

“The Kentucky Derby has been called the chance of a lifetime and a lifetime of chance. I’ve been fortunate in my lifetime in a coaching career to get the chance to coach and associate with many great players. I have seen what a positive force a game and its stars can be for a community. Basketball can certainly arouse, unite and inspire.”

On his 64th birthday, Crum announced that he would retire at the end of the season.  

Funeral arrangements will be released once finalized, officials said.

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