On Sunday night November 12, ex-Louisville head basketball coach Denny Crum made a rare media appearance on WAVG 1450 AM in an interview conducted by Dr. Stan Frager, Dave Shahroudi and myself. After spending his morning duck hunting and an afternoon of watching NFL playoff games, Crum talked with us on a wide variety of subjects. The following is the first in a four part series of Catching up with Coach Crum.
Retirement, Basketball Today, and the Arena issue:
Since you are now retired, I imagine you’re golf game has really improved?
Crum: I wish I could say that is true. I’ve done so much fishing when I’ve had free time that I really haven’t played that much golf this year. I’m a lot better scramble player than I am a regular player because I don’t play enough to be consistent. But I can help a team in a scramble. I’m an excellent putter. I’m a pretty good short iron player. I don’t hit it that far anymore. But I hit it far enough.
What has retirement been like for you?
I didn’t know what to expect. I’m as busy now as I’ve ever been. In fact, I don’t know how I had time to work. I’ve been still doing a lot of the charity stuff and I’m helping the university, I’m retired from coaching and recruiting and a lot of that stuff but I do a lot of things with the alumni association; speak at their different gatherings around the country. I’m helping the university raise money for the library and with 5/3 Bank we’ve formed a scholarship foundation and we’re raising money to give scholarship to kids to keep some of the better kids here in Louisville.
Are you doing anything with basketball now?
The only thing I’m doing with basketball is I just go to the games, relax and watch them as a fan and just enjoy them. A lot of those kids that I recruited are still playing and it’s fun to go watch them progress and they’re having some real good success up to this point in the season and I don’t expect that to change. I’m just happy that they’re having fun and winning and doing well. Cause you get to know these kids a lot and when you watch them grow both as players and as people, that’s one of the real fun things about coaching is that you get close enough to these guys that you get to know them pretty well. And when you see them make progress it’s really a lot of fun.
Do you still analyze games or do you just sit back and enjoy them?
I’m trying to just watch it as a fan. I still look and see what everybody’s doing.
There was a time when you didn’t get to see all these other teams. So they were doing things, maybe successfully, and you didn’t know anything about it. Today, anybody that’s having success, you don’t have to be a mental giant to be able to tape a game and sit there and watch it and figure out what everybody else is doing. And if it’s something that would work with your kids and that you could teach properly and you want to integrate it into to what you’re doing, which is what most coaches do, if somebody else is doing something really well then you try to incorporate it. Everybody steals from everybody. There’s no secrets out there like there used to be. We used to do things and nobody knew what we were doing until they played us because you weren’t on television all the time.
With so many people talking about a new arena, what is your position?
I don’t know if it’s needed or not. If it would be good for the university and good for downtown and the city and everything here, I’m in favor of anything that is good. I don’t know enough about the details about whether or not it can be done well and done in a way that everybody would be happy with. There’s so many questions that I don’t know the answer to. Do you put the cart before the horse? What if you get your arena and you don’t get a pro team? Then how do you pay for it? There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered. I’m not opposed to it. I’m not even sure if it’s a reality or if they’ve got everybody pushing for it or half of the people are opposed to it.
They didn’t seem to be able to get it done a year or so ago. I think somewhere down the road it will happen. How soon and whether we need it or not, whether it would be good for everybody or just good some people, I don’t know. I know the Freedom Hall is a great place to play. They’ve got great sight lines, there aren’t any bad seats in Freedom Hall.
But wouldn’t it be nice to not have to schedule around everything else that goes on there?
That’s true but that’s hardly a reason to build a new one. If that was the case they would have built one a long time ago when they were a lot cheaper. I certainly think that’s certainly a factor, but there’s a lot of factors that are involved. If Louisville could and would play in there and if it would help us get a pro team and if this community could afford a pro team then I think it would be great to have a real nice place to play. But I don’t enough of the answers to the really tough questions, all the financial issues and stuff. I know that when they decided to build the football stadium. That was a big decision to make and they made the decision to do it and they did it and they have a really nice place to play and now I guess they’re having problems, the overhead’s higher than they thought and a lot of issues involved. I don’t know where you draw the line and say it’s worth whatever it costs and that or do you get the money ahead of time, get the pro team and then build the place. Or do you put the cart before the horse. I don’t know what’s the right way to do it. We’re growing and this whole area is growing, whether or not we’re big enough yet to support a team like that? Charlotte wasn’t supporting their team over there and they’re a lot bigger than we are and they’re one of the fastest growing communities in the country.
I would admit as a coach you always want the nicest places to play your games and stuff. Does it help your recruiting? I know the atmosphere in Freedom Hall can be really good. If it gets bigger do you lose some of that or is it still there? The main thing to me is the financial end and I don’t know enough about that to be able to judge whether it will be a doable thing or not.
NEXT WEEK: Coach Crum talks about his feelings over his controversial sudden departure from the university as well as what was involved in building Louisville basketball.