Crum To Retire As Louisville Coach

Saturday, March 3rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ After months of speculation and weeks of sniping, Denny Crum is retiring from basketball. And the Louisville coach insists he's leaving on his own terms.

``This is my decision and I feel really good about it,'' said Crum, who held back tears during a news conference Friday. ``Nobody's pushing me out of here. This is really what I wanted to do. I feel great about it.''

The Hall of Fame coach ended a 30-year career with the Cardinals by accepting a $7 million buyout. It was an about-face from his insistence this season that he would be back next year.

Crum guided the Cardinals to two national titles and six Final Fours. However, Louisville hasn't returned to the Final Four since winning the 1986 championship.

Crum is the only active college coach in the Hall of Fame, and he and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski are the only active coaches with more than one NCAA title. Crum's six Final Fours are second among active coaches to Krzyzewski's eight.

Crum will retire after completing the season. Louisville is 11-18 entering Saturday's regular-season finale against Memphis, with the Conference USA tournament to follow at Freedom Hall.

The Louisville coach met on Jan. 25 with athletic director Tom Jurich, who had been quoted as saying he could not guarantee Crum would be back. Their strained relationship escalated last week with the release of memos between the two.

Louisville president John Shumaker denied then that university officials have held secret meetings, talked with boosters about buyouts or contacted other coaches.

``I honestly wish none of that had ever happened,'' said Crum, who turned 64 on Friday. ``There's no way any kind of division is good for the university. I don't want this to be, nor did I ever want this to be something that could damage the university. Things happen, and sometimes you can't control them.''

Crum's contract ran through the 2002-03 season. A clause required the university to pay Crum $2 million if his employment ended before June 30. Crum will be paid that, plus about $5 million in the next 15 years while a university consultant.

Jurich has not set a timetable for hiring a successor.

``We've got to continue to build this program back to where it was,'' he said. ``I don't think anyone is happy with where this program's at. We want to make sure we get this house in order.''

Junior Bridgeman, a member of the board of trustees who starred for Crum from 1972 to 1975, said the rift between Crum and Jurich could take time to heal.

``It should've never happened like this,'' he said. ``So many people outside the program have gotten involved and it was disappointing to see this handled this way.''

The Cardinals are 61-61 in the past four seasons, with an 0-2 record in the NCAA tournament. The program was hit with sanctions twice in the 1990s, although no violations were directly linked to Crum.

``It's been a great career. Everything's not always going to be peaches and cream,'' Crum said. ``I don't know of any business that you're in for 30 years and goes exactly the way you want it to be.''

Crum has won 674 games, 14th on the career list. The only active Division I basketball coach with more time at one school is Jim Phelan, with 47 years at Mount St. Mary's.

Louisville remained a Top 25 team into the mid-1990s, with seven 20-win seasons from 1987 to 1997. The Cardinals went 26-9 and reached the national quarterfinals in 1997.

Crum passed John Wooden on the all-time victory list this season in Louisville's 86-85 win over UNLV.

A native of San Fernando, Calif., Crum played for Wooden at UCLA in the 1950s. He was a graduate assistant for Wooden from 1959 to 1961. He coached briefly at junior college in Los Angeles before returning to work for Wooden from 1968 to 1971.

Crum replaced John Dromo as Louisville's coach in 1971, and the Cardinals reached the Final Four in his first season, losing to UCLA in the semifinals. Louisville returned to the Final Four in 1975 and again in 1980, winning the school's first championship by beating UCLA. The Cardinals won their second title in 1986, beating Duke in the title game.

Darrell Griffith, who starred on Crum's first national championship squad in 1980, spoke with the coach before the retirement announcement.

``Any time you have someone with a lot of success step down, it's a sad moment,'' he said. ``But he told me he didn't get run off, and that was important to me. He decided on his own that it was time.''