This guide is the ultimate resource for true fans of the Cardinals. Whether you cheered along for the 1980 and 1986 March Madness victories, or whether you're a more recent supporter in the Rick Pitino era, these are the 100 things every fan needs to know and do in their lifetime. Experienced sportswriter Mike Rutherford has collected every essential piece of Louisville knowledge and trivia, as well as must-do activities, and ranks them all from 1 to 100, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist as you progress on your way to fan superstardom.
About the Author
Mike Rutherford is the founder and manager of the Louisville sports website Card Chronicle and the college basketball editor for SB Nation. He was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Rick Pitino has been the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals since 2001. He resides in Louisville.
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During the first half of the 1970s, it became a well-known fact within the city of Louisville that the area's next great basketball player was going to be a young man by the name of Darrell Griffith.
Griffith's playground exploits had been talked about since before the time he was a teenager. Years later, he became a full-fledged star at local power Male High School, carrying the Bulldogs to the 1975 Kentucky state championship and blossoming into a player who was recruited by every major college program in the country along the way.
What attracted spectators most to Griffith's games wasn't his teams' margins of victory or how many points their best player scored, but the fact that every time this kid stepped on the court, people in the crowd felt like they were about to see something they'd never seen before.
In the December 21, 1975 edition of The Louisville Courier-Journal, then-local sportswriter Dave Kindred recounted a play he'd seen the 17-year-old Griffith make in a game earlier that year.
Griffith's command of his body cost him one basket in that game. He went up to catch a lob pass. In the air, he faked a shot, double-pumping. As he landed and started back up, referee Jim Ashmore called traveling when, in fact, Griffith had not taken a single step. He'd just done something mortals couldn't do, and the referee was fooled.
Similar tales became commonplace across the city of Louisville as the legend of Griffith continued to grow. When Darrell was ready in 1976 to make the announcement that Cardinals fans had been dreaming of hearing for the past several years, he decided to toss in a quote that would enhance his local celebrity: "I'm going to play basketball for the University of Louisville and I plan on winning several national championships for my city."
It was a brash declaration that seemed out of character for the blossoming superstar at the time. At Male, Griffith had always been more likely to let his play do the talking then engage an opponent in some trash talking. Now he was openly discussing leading Louisville to its first national title before he ever donned a Cardinals uniform.
There were those in the city who didn't like the arrogance, even if it came from a homegrown talent. Not counted among that group was Griffith's new head coach. "That's what he wanted to do and that's what he expected to do," said Denny Crum. "He was good enough to do that, so I wasn't upset about that. As a matter of fact, it pleased me. You're thinking in terms of winning and you kind of want that word to get out that he's promising it. And what I would say was, come along and help. Help us get there and do that."
Before he arrived on campus, Griffith had one last headline to make in order for his arrival to be met with as much pomp and circumstance as possible. During tryouts for the 1976 United States Olympic basketball team, to which Griffith was the only high school player invited, the future Cardinal recorded a standing vertical leap of 48 inches. The jump was the highest ever officially recorded at the time and was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records.
At Louisville, Griffith was the rare No. 1 recruit who not only lived up the hype but exceeded it. Despite being a freshman on a team loaded with veterans, Griffith emerged as Louisville's fourth-leading scorer in 1976–77, averaging 12.8 points on a Cardinals team that would finish 21–7. He then turned into a full-fledged star, leading Louisville in scoring as both a sophomore and a junior, and helping the team to a Metro Conference Tournament and regular-season championship. Griffith's high-flying style was also making him a household name outside of Louisville. Or rather, his "Dr. Dunkenstein" nickname was becoming a household name.
Although many assumed that Griffith's famous nickname was the product of the amount of national coverage he received in college, it actually predated his days as a Louisville Cardinal. "I grew up in the funkadelic Parliament era," Griffith told ESPN in 2003. "And, you know, George Clinton had a character called Dr. Funkenstein. And it kind of came from that. My brother and the homeboys in the neighborhood sort of tagged me with the nickname."
Heading into his senior season, Griffith had already secured a place for himself in the Louisville basketball record books, but his three Cardinals teams had combined to win just two games in the NCAA Tournament. There was only one year left for the Derby City's favorite son to make good on his teenage promise.
For the entirety of his senior season, Griffith played like a man with an entire city on his back. He set still-standing records for the most points in a season (825), for the highest-scoring average in a conference season (22.4 points), for the most field goals made (349) and attempted (631) in a season, and set a record for steals in a season (86), a mark that wasn't broken until 2012.
More important than any of that, at least to Griffith, was that he led Louisville to a 33–3 record and the program's first national championship. He scored 23 points in a memorable national title game that saw the Cardinals top UCLA 59–54 and afterward he was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player. It was a trophy the consensus first-team All-American could set on his mantle next to the 1980 Wooden and Sporting News Player of the Year awards.
Still, there was one award that Griff never minded admitting brought him more joy than all the others combined. "I could have won 10 NBA championships, and it still wouldn't have compared to winning that national championship," Griffith said. "Especially since that was the first one and it was my last chance to do what I'd promised to do. We got it done, and there was no better feeling in the world."
Griffith's No. 35 jersey was retired in a ceremony soon after the end of the 1980 season. He left U of L as the school's career scoring leader (2,333 points), single-season scoring leader, steals leader, and first recipient of a major National Player of the Year award. He finished his college career, having scored in double figures in 41 consecutive games and he helped Louisville to a combined record of 101–25 over his four seasons as a Cardinal.
Griffith was selected with second overall pick of the 1980 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. The Jazz also retired Griffith's No. 35 after a successful 11-year career that included being honored as the 1981 NBA Rookie of the Year and a career scoring average of 16.2 ppg.
Following his retirement from basketball in 1991, "Louisville's Living Legend" returned home to be with his family and venture into the business world. "Louisville's always going to be home, always," Griffith said. "The city made me what I am, and I'm forever glad that I was able to give back by bringing it that first national championship."
If you tried to pitch it as a screenplay or a manuscript today, no one would buy the story of Denny Crum and Louisville. Executives would criticize it for being overly fanciful and unbelievable. They would write it off as a sequence of events that would never occur in the modern world. They'd probably be right.
A West Coast lifer who was groomed by the most legendary coach in college basketball to take over the most dominant dynasty the sport had ever seen, he passed on the opportunity in favor of sticking with a program from Kentucky that had never won a national title. He was man who had been the first to dare to poke and prod the state's superpower — and ultimately get his way. He was a man who felt so much loyalty to his program that even when he was given an exit that he deemed unceremonious and unfair he couldn't bring himself to coach anywhere else. Instead, he decided to retire and spend his free time giving back to the school and attending each and every home game.
Again, it's a story that has no place in the reality of the modern world.
Denzel Edwin "Denny" Crum was born in San Fernando, California, where he spent his early years dreaming of playing college basketball for the UCLA Bruins. Even though Crum developed into one of the most highly touted high school players in the Los Angeles area, John Wooden — who wasn't yet known as "the Wizard of Westwood" — passed on the opportunity to offer Crum a scholarship.
Disappointed but not deterred, Crum enrolled at Los Angeles Pierce College, where he put up gaudy numbers as a star guard on the school's basketball team. Near the end of his sophomore season, a stroke of luck helped Crum bring his dream home. "After my sophomore year, our school president, John Sheppard, helped me out," Crum told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2010. "He went to the same church as John Wooden, so he told him how badly I wanted to play there. He brought him to one of our games — we didn't even have our own gym, we played at Canoga Park High. I guess [Wooden] liked me because he invited me to their practice and training table and called to set me up with some tickets to watch the Bruins play over at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. I had offers from Washington and Arizona State, but I still wanted to go to UCLA.
"It was funny. We were at training table. I was there with Coach Wooden and [trainer] Ducky Drake and after the meal, Coach Wooden just says, 'Well, are you coming or not?' He didn't say anything about a scholarship covering this or that or anything else. And I just said, 'Yeah, I guess I am.'" Playing on a pair of Bruins teams that were highly successful but unable to finish ahead of Cal in the Pacific Coast Conference, Crum was honored with the Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Trophy for being UCLA's most outstanding first-year varsity player in 1956–57. A year later he received the Bruin Bench Award — given annually to the team's most improved player.
After graduation, Crum returned to Pierce and spent four seasons as the school's basketball coach. He then returned to UCLA, where he first served as the program's freshman team coach, and then later as Wooden's primary assistant coach and head recruiter. With Crum on staff, UCLA won seven national championships in eight seasons and compiled a total record of 221 wins to just 15 losses. Then in 1971, Crum left the greatest dynasty that college basketball has ever seen to take the head coaching job at Louisville. "I never had any doubt Denny would succeed as a coach," Wooden said in the fall of 2000. "Of any player I coached, Denny was probably the most cut out to be a coach."
In his first season as a Division I head coach, Crum guided Louisville to just its second Final Four appearance in program history. The opponent, naturally, was UCLA, and the Bruins easily dispatched the Cardinals in a 96–77 blowout and went on to win its sixth straight national title.
Crum had U of L in a much better place in 1975, when the Cardinals and Bruins once again met in the national semifinals. Despite being in control for the bulk of the game, a disastrous final minute of regulation and a missed free throw in the closing seconds of overtime ultimately doomed Louisville in a heartbreaking 75–74 defeat. After the game, Wooden stunned everyone by announcing that the national championship game two days later would be his last before retirement. Crum was immediately tabbed by the media as the next in line at UCLA, but he put an end to the speculation before it could gain too much momentum. "I hadn't yet accomplished what I wanted to at Louisville," Crum explained to The New York Times in 1986. "And when I was offered the UCLA job after Gene Bartow left a couple of years later, I decided that I loved Louisville and didn't want to leave. I think I probably could have done the job at UCLA better than anyone else. It's never easy following a legend, but because I knew the people and the situation there, I don't think I would've had the problems other people had.
"Through the years, I've learned to be patient. Coach Wooden had tremendous patience. When he said, 'Goodness gracious, sakes alive,' he was swearing at you. He was at the end of the line with you as a player. And as an assistant coach, I had my conflicts with him on the bench as to what to do and who to put in the game. But that was good instead of bad. There's no value to having a yes man as an assistant coach. You need opinion from your assistants."
Crum's belief in his own abilities and newfound affection for Louisville resulted in the Cardinals morphing into college basketball's newest superpower. Conversely, it would be 20 years after Wooden's retirement before UCLA won another national championship.
Louisville's first national title would come in 1980, when senior Darrell Griffith — the winner of the National Player of the Year award that bears Wooden's name — carried the Cards to a 59–54 toppling of (who else?) UCLA. U of L returned to the Final Four in 1982 and 1983 and then claimed its second NCAA Tournament championship with a 72–69 triumph against top-ranked Duke in 1986. When the 1980s came to a close, Sports Illustrated named Louisville as its "Team of the Decade" for college basketball.
Success continued for Crum in the 1990s, just not at the unprecedented level that his fan base was now accustomed to. Louisville routinely played its way into the second weekend of the tournament, but played in just one regional final under Crum after the '86 championship season.
With Louisville struggling to land blue chip talent and in the midst of what would be just the third losing season in Crum's 30 years as coach, things got ugly at the start of the 21 century. U of L athletic director Tom Jurich had done little to hide the fact that he believed the basketball program needed to go in a different direction, and Crum had made his own thoughts on the matter known. "You can't say you don't know if it can happen," Crum said on February 22, 2001, about the speculation that he would be fired if he refused to accept a buyout. "It can happen to anybody at any time. The justification for it is another issue. Whatever decision is made, then they'll have to live with it."
Two weeks later, Crum called a press conference to announce his retirement. His words said that he was ending his tenure at Louisville after 30 years because he wanted to. His sullen, almost resentful demeanor said otherwise.
As he stood before the Louisville media, Crum was the only active coach in college basketball who had already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, an honor he received in 1994. He was also one of just two active coaches who had won multiple national championships. None of this made the surprising changing of the guard any easier to stomach for those whose closets were lined with mostly red and black attire.
Never one to carry a grudge, any ill feelings from Crum about the way things ended dissolved soon after the start of Crum's retirement. He discovered a life outside of basketball, one dominated by fishing and a local radio show that he co-hosted with Joe B. Hall, the former Kentucky head coach whom Crum had ribbed incessantly about his refusal to play his teams in the early 1980s. He also continued to attend Cardinals home games (and away games when he could) and always received some of the loudest ovations of the night when he showed up on the big screen during a timeout.
In 2007 Louisville held a ceremony in which it named the court inside Freedom Hall "Denny Crum Court." It was a deserving honor for the man who had taken a program with limited history and won two national titles, reached six Final Fours, made 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, and won 675 total games in 30 seasons.
So how does Crum explain the story that would never be accepted even as a work of fiction in this day and age? How does he explain turning down the chance to assume Wooden's throne at UCLA or not leveraging his status as college basketball's most dominant coach into an NBA gig during the 1980s? "You can't spend 30 years at a place and not grow to love it or you'd have been gone long before," Crum said. "The fact that I loved it here and they seemed to want me here and it just seemed to go on for a long time, that's special. It's not a common thing in this business for coaches to stay at one place. There's only a few of us who get a chance to do that."
"What I never expected when I originally took the job here was the love I developed for this university and the people of this city. After a while, there was just no place else I wanted to be."
Excerpted from "100 Things Louisville Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die"
Copyright © 2017 Mike Rutherford.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Rick Pitino xi
1 Darrell Griffith 1
2 Denny Crum 5
3 The Doctors of Dunk 10
4 Luke Hancock Shoots Louisville to the 2013 Title 12
5 Tom Jurich 16
6 Rick Pitino 21
7 The Louisville-Kentucky Basketball Rivalry 25
8 The Dream Game 31
9 Lamar Jackson 35
10 Johnny Unitas 38
11 Freedom Hall 42
12 What Did Freedom Hall Smell Like? 44
13 Kyle Kuric Saves Freedom Hall's Send-Off 47
14 Six Weeks of Glory for Louisville Football 51
15 Learn the Words to Louisville's Two Fight Songs 57
16 Westley Unseld 59
17 Wiley Brown's Thumb 62
18 Angel McCoughtry 65
19 Don't Jump on the Bird 70
20 Charlie Tyra 71
21 The First Family of Louisville Football 73
22 ACC Jubilation 79
23 Bobby Petrino 82
24 The Inventors of the High Five 85
25 The KFC Yum! Center 87
26 The Hiring of Rick Pitino 89
27 Reece Gaines' Miracle Against Tennessee 93
28 Visit the U of L Hall of Honor 95
29 Teddy Bridgewater: The Ultimate Nice Guy 96
30 "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison 100
31 Louisville's Greatest Nicknames 103
32 Lee Corso's Greatest Hits 106
33 Eliminate These Rivalry Words and Phrases from Your Lexicon 108
34 The Doctors of Dunk vs. Phi Slama Jama 112
35 The Greatest Upset 116
36 Peck Hickman 118
37 The Dunk Heard 'Round the Derby City 121
38 Howard Schnellenberger 122
39 Howard Schnellenberger Meets Mick Jagger 126
40 Louisville's Fiesta Bowl Thrashing of Alabama 128
41 Louisville's Ail-Americans 130
42 Go! Cards! Beat! Purdue? 137
43 The Dream Game That Almost Was 138
44 Papa John's Cardinal Stadium 141
45 Kevin Ware's Injury 143
46 Attend the Louisville Football Card March 146
47 The Keg of Nails 147
48 Muhammad Ali and U of L 148
49 Louisville Honors Ali, Destroys Florida State 150
50 The Power of the InfraReds 151
51 Louisville's Greatest Football Wins over Kentucky 155
52 Battle for the Governor's Cup Traditions 156
53 Louisville's 2005 Final Four Run 157
54 Louisville's First Bowl Win 162
55 Kelsi Worrell Wins Gold 163
56 Tom Jurich and Bobby Petrino's Secret Meeting 167
57 Youth, David Letterman, and the Louisville-Cincinnati Basketball Rivalry 169
58 Lenny Lyles 171
59 Russ Smith, Louisville's Most Unlikely Ail-American 172
60 Russ Smith's Best Quotes 175
61 Louisville Blacks Out West Virginia 178
62 Crawford Gymnasium 180
63 Samaki Walker's Triple-Double 183
64 Eric Wood's Favorite Stories 185
65 DeJuan Wheat 188
66 The Miracle of Dan McDonnell 191
67 U.S. Reed's Half-Court Shot 194
68 Railroad Roots 197
69 The Curse of the Black Uniforms 198
70 The Billy Minardi Classic 201
71 Doug Buffone 203
72 The Legend of Juan Palacios' Goggles 204
73 The Exodus of Wade and Allan Houston 207
74 The Original White Suit Game 209
75 The Top 10 T-Willisims 213
76 Kenny Klein 216
77 Louisville and Marquette's Fantastic Games 218
78 "Louie" the Cardinal Bird 225
79 The National Dominance of the U of L Spirit Groups 226
80 Louisville's 1948 NAIB Tournament Title 227
81 Never Wrong Poncho Wright 229
82 Paul Rogers, "the Voice of the Cardinals" 231
83 Pitino-Speak 233
84 Chris Redman 235
85 The 2001 Liberty Bowl 238
86 Denny Crum Court 239
87 Louisville's Second Bowl Appearance Ends in a Tie 241
88 The 2013 Dream That Did Not Die 243
89 Bill Olsen 246
90 Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime 247
91 The Louisville-Memphis Rivalry 250
92 Rick Piano's Championship Tattoo 251
93 Charlie Strong 253
94 Louisville's 1956 NIT Title 255
95 Ken Lolla and the Rise of Louisville Soccer 256
96 The Shot Heard 'Round the Commonwealth 258
97 Sing Along to "My Old Kentucky Home" 259
98 Preston Knowles and "Louisville First" 261
99 Attend a Louisville Baseball Game at Jim Patterson Stadium 264
100 Snow Days with Everyone's Favorite Walk-On 265