Denny Crum welcomes Rick Pitino into the club of Hall of Fame coaches with two NCAA titles.
Rick Bozich and Denny Crum
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRD) – Rick Pitino isn't the first University of Louisville basketball coach to win his second NCAA title. Denny Crum delivered the NCAA double in 1980 and 1986.
They're two of only 14 coaches in the exclusive two-title club – and now they're also both members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Crum has never been hesitant to critique Pitino's work during the 12 seasons since Pitino replaced him as the U of L coach in 2001. He has questioned how hard Pitino works his players during the season and wondered about strategy decisions, too.
But when Crum analyzes the job that Pitino did this season, he wants to make one thing perfectly clear:
"This is Rick's victory and his team's victory and staff. They did a marvelous job. I've seen every championship since I've been involved with it and that's been over 45 years and I can tell you there is no one more deserving than this team to win a national championship.
"You've got to give Rick a world of credit for how he brought this team along and how they stuck together even through adversity. Coach (John) Wooden used to say you only prosper through adversity and I think Louisville did. Because they absolutely played their hearts out."
Crum, 76, still works for U of L in addition to his daily radio show with former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall. He was in Atlanta for both Final Four games and had a long list of Cardinals' players who impressed him with their grit and persistence – Tim Henderson, Luke Hancock, Chane Behanan, Kevin Ware.
But it certainly seemed as if Crum had one favorite guy – Peyton Siva, the team's senior point guard.
"Peyton has got the heart of a King," Crum said. "No matter what happened. He might have missed five or six or eight shots in a row. But he would get it to the open man and he created so many things for this Louisville team.
"He was their leader on their defense and press. He was one of those young men that you love if you know him. You would have to admire how he played. No one played harder than Peyton played.
"He'd get a little over-zealous and get in foul trouble every once in a while. But it didn't prevent him. He'd just come back with a vengeance when things didn't go real well, which is the heart of a king for anybody. He is just a wonderful young man."