During March every sports fan in the area refuses to shut up about one thing: basketball. Suddenly everybody has huge opinions on Florida Gulf Coast University, despite the fact that they hadn’t even heard of the school two weeks ago.
None the less, I figured I’d go with this and take a look at some of the greatest teams that have defined the city of Louisville through the years, establishing a new category for Sports Legends.
Going with the fervor of college basketball currently, today I’m honoring the 1980 University of Louisville men’s basketball team, who delivered the Cards their first NCAA championship.
This came after the young hot shot coach, Denny Crum would beat out his mentor John Wooden in the championship game as Louisville bested UCLA 59-54.
Of course, this story goes back to 1971 when the now hall of fame coach, Crum, came into Louisville looking to make a name for himself with a style of basketball that could be described as west coast even.
And, this style of play jelled perfectly with a young man out of Male high school who guaranteed an NCAA championship, this young man of course was Darrell Griffith. And, Griffith and Crum led the Cards to a 33-3 season record.
What’s truly remarkable about the ’80 Cards though was that most of the players came from the general area, of course Griffith was born and bred Louisville as was Ballard’s Jerry Eaves, meanwhile Harrodsburg native Marty Pulliam joined the team as a center.
Out of New Albany came guard Greg Deuser, and from the rest of the state of Indiana came Tony Branch, Roger Burkman, and “Poncho” Wright.
The team was rounded out by players from Georgia and farthest out New York state, these included Scooter and Rodney McCray, Daryl Cleveland, Wiley Brown, and Derek Smith.
What’s further impressive in regards to the team was how many of the athletes managed to stay in basketball, Jerry Eaves would go on to work in the NBA as an assistant coach with the Nets, Hornets, and Cavaliers, and he also served stints in the NCAA with both his alma mater of Louisville and North Carolina A&T- a position he held until 2012.
Scooter McCray was drafted into the NBA, playing in Seattle and Cleveland. His brother, Rodney was also drafted into the pros suiting up with Houston, Sacramento, Dallas, and Chicago in his NBA career.
Guard Roger Burkman went to the pros after a receiving a selection from the Chicago Bulls. Of course team captain, Darrell Griffith would go on to become a hall of famer with the Utah Jazz following his time as a Card.
Wiley Brown, who played both basketball and football actually signed a deal with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, out of college. Derek Smith was drafted to the NBA and played pro ball for the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, and Boston Celtics.
Of course, coach Denny Crum is currently a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and area legend, currently co-hosting the Joe B. and Denny Show; a radio broadcast which puts him across from long-time rival former Kentucky coach, Joe B. Hall. Meanwhile, Crum’s assistant coach Wade Houston would go on to be the head coach at Tennessee after thirteen successful years with the Cards. Houston is currently an area businessman.
Image courtesy of Word Press