Crum keeping his cool during March Madness

March 24, 1994|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Denny Crum is the easy one to spot at the West Regional. He's the coach whose resume includes an NCAA title.

Make that two. Arizona's Lute Olson, Missouri's Norm Stewart and Syracuse's Jim Boeheim have won more than 1,500 games, but none has won an NCAA championship and only Boeheim has reached the final. Louisville's Crum has won the title twice, in 1980 and '86, and that big stick has the Cardinals walking softy and confidently.

The Sweet 16 matchups at the Los Angeles Sports Arena tonight have top-seeded Missouri playing fourth-seeded Syracuse (8:07 p.m.), with second-seeded Arizona and third-seeded Louisville to follow (approximately 10:30 p.m.). The winners come back Saturday, when Louisville could earn its seventh Final Four berth under Crum.

While other coaches have changed their methods to accommodate March Madness -- Olson made his players off limits to the media before last week's opener with Loyola, shielding them from queries regarding the Wildcats' previous early-round failures -- Crum sticks with the regimen that got Louisville here.

"We don't change anything," said Crum, whose 23-season record is 546-197. "We want to do everything the way we've always done it, so the players have the same routines, the same feelings. There's enough pressure because of the media hype and the attention."

Crum can low-key the affair to his players and mean it because he's been here so many times.

He made the Final Four in his first season as Cardinals coach, in 1972, but he hasn't been back since winning the title in 1986, and some critics in the Bluegrass State wondered if the Crum, 57, had become a dinosaur. There was a losing record -- the only one of his career -- in 1990-91, complaints about the program's graduation rate and Rick Pitino's renewing the state's love affair with Kentucky.

They said Crum couldn't adjust, but he did. His teams disdained the three-point shot when it was introduced, but they've made a decent 37.2 as a team and beat Minnesota last Sunday thanks to Dwayne Morton's long-distance shooting.

Just as Dean Smith said he would never recruit the junior colleges and Bob McAdoo made it to Chapel Hill, Crum stayed away from transfers but got Clifford Rozier when he left the Tar Heels. Crum relented because he recruited Rozier, who's averaging 18.5 points and 11.2 rebounds, out of high school in Bradenton, Fla.

Some things don't change, however. The Cardinals still run a high-post offense, bang the boards and pressure opponents. Another reminder of Crum's apprenticeship under John Wooden at UCLA is the rolled-up program he clutches.

Crum desires a happier homecoming than the one he had March 6, when Louisville lost, 75-72, at UCLA, the Cardinals' only loss in their past nine games.

Wooden, Adolph Rupp and Bob Knight are the only coaches with more NCAA titles than the two Crum and six others have won. Knight and Dean Smith are the only ones with more Final Four appearances, and they are also the only two active coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame. That oversight will be rectified May 9, when Crum gains the honor.

Crum doesn't get notice by throwing chairs or recruiting a third of the Parade All-America team, but he has the attention of his players.

"He's one of the most level-headed persons around," sophomore forward Brian Kiser said. "It's great to play for somebody like that, who doesn't rant and rave and bring a lot of attention to himself. He just coaches; he's not in it for his own personal glory."

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