LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 2 -- One of the longest and most successful tenures in college basketball will be over at season's end with the retirement of Denny Crum as coach at the University of Louisville after his acceptance of a buyout of the last two years on his contract.
Ironically, the announcement was made Friday on Crum's 64th birthday.
A report by ESPN.com indicated Friday the names that have surfaced as possible successors are three men who currently have head coaching jobs - Tim Floyd of the Chicago Bulls, Mark Gottfried at the University of Alabama, and Iowa State's Larry Eustachy, who was a high school classmate of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich.
It is suspected that Jurich will make the hire pretty quickly, possibly even during the NCAA Tournament, so that recruiting will not be too adversely affected.
Crum, who has 674 career victories and coached two NCAA championship teams at Louisville, will continue to serve the university in various projects.
Although there has been much acrimony between Crum and Jurich in recent months, he insisted the decision to step down as coach was his alone.
"Nobody's pushed me out the door, I can assure you," Crum said at a news conference. "It was my decision and I'm honored that I can continue to help the university. The fact that they allowed me to stay here for 30 years shows how they feel about me and the fact that I stayed shows how much I love it here."
There has been much speculation about Crum's future at Louisville since a highly-publicized January meeting with Jurich, after which Jurich refused to guarantee Crum's return next season.
The pair held a 90-minute discussion Jan. 25, after which Crum vowed to return and Jurich refusing to make any guarantees. Unfortunately, the bitterness of that standoff came to light when confidential memos between the pair in the two weeks following the meeting were made public last week.
"No 30-year partnership is without problems," is all Crumwould say Friday.
He did say he hoped to be able to continue his relationship with the university by helping with fund raising and other events.
"I'll do whatever I can do as long as it doesn't interfere with my fishing," he quipped. "My friends have been telling me there's a better life out there than the one you're living and you need to come and enjoy it with us. I feel good about it. I'm happy about everything. They've allowed me to stay and help in whatever capacity."
Crum also said he entertained thoughts of retiring from coaching several years ago.
"I didn't do it at the time because I'd gone through a divorce and I wasn't sure I was in a financial position to do everything I wanted to do," said Crum, who soon will remarry. "Now I have enough money to retire and do the things I want to do. I'm looking forward to living a normal life, which is very difficult when you're the basketball coach at Louisville. You don't have any private life to speak of."
Crum, a disciple of the legendary John Wooden, engineered Louisville's rise into the national spotlight by taking the Cardinals to NCAA titles in 1980 and '86 and to the Final Four in 1972, '75, '82 and 1983. But in recent years, the program has faltered badly -- both on the court and off.
The Cardinals are just 11-18 this season, 7-8 in Conference USA. They have no shot at making the postseason, unless they pull off a monumental upset next week and win the conference tournament and the league's automatic berth, but that is not expected to happen.
Louisville, which has not been very talented in the past few years, is headed to its second losing season in four years after posting a 12-20 mark in the 1997-98 campaign. The Cardinals are just 61-61 over the last four years and 0-2 in the NCAA Tournament. Unlike past years, having to play the Cardinals does not instill fear in the opposition.
Off the court, the school served an NCAA-imposed probation stemming from a 1996 incident in which former player and assistant coach Scooter McCray inquired about reduced hotel rates for the father of forward Nate Johnson. McCray used his own credit card to pay for the room.
The men's basketball program also was penalized for paying automobile insurance and parking tickets for former center Samaki Walker.
Crum was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and is the only active coach with that distinction. His six Final Four appearances rank him fourth on the all-time list behind Wooden (12), former North Carolina Coach Dean Smith (11) and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (8).NEWLN: