Louisville Magazine

NOV 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.18 53 with ticket allocations on road trips. "at's a manufactured story," he says, asking why, after so many years, these complaints would be coming up. But, he says, "at's Louisville." I drive over to see Wade Houston at his family's business, HJI Supply Chain Solutions. Located off Old Henry Road near the Gene Snyder, the logistics and warehousing company sprawls on both sides of its aptly named street, Complete Court. Houston was one of three African- Americans on the first team at U of L to break the color barrier, in 1962. From 1976 to 1989, Houston was an assistant to Crum and the team's top recruiter of high school talent. He ended his basketball career as Tennessee's head coach from 1989 to '94, the first African-American head coach in the Southeastern Conference. Houston remembers a UCLA game at Freedom Hall when Crum was really sick from the flu and had to watch the game in bed and call in his comments. e team was mired offensively, so the assistants started drawing up new plays from the sidelines. Crum called in and said, "I don't recognize this offense." When he came back the next day, he took all of those plays out and none of the assistants dared tell him who put them in. Houston, still an agile presence at 74, surprises me a bit by saying he hasn't seen a lot of major changes in college basketball since his days with Crum. He does agree that the introduction of the three-point line and increased overall athleticism have had an impact. "But even in the early '80s we had the Michael Jordans of the world," he says, "so we had a glimpse of that." Houston mentions that a front-office member of the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans called him not long ago and wanted to talk about the Golden State Warriors, who've been NBA champions three of the last four years. e Pelicans official made note of Golden State's strategy of moving guards down low near the basket and taller players to the perimeter, recalling that U of L was doing that long before anyone in the pro game. "We just discovered a way to find guys that were more interchangeable," Houston says of the Crum-era recruiting strategy. "And we did it out of necessity." Not able to outcompete more-storied programs for the seven-foot All-American centers, Crum and Houston looked in out-of-the-way towns for more versatile talent. "We'd go to Scooba, Mississippi, or Laurel, Mississippi, or Savannah, Georgia, and get…guys who were 6-foot-7 — or 6'8" or 6'9" in some cases — and just teach those guys to play different positions," Houston says. "And we ended up with a better model than some of the guys who had 7-foot centers." (Interestingly, both Houston and Crum mention the same player when I ask them who they recall first from the long line of stars during the '70s, '80s and '90s: Wesley Cox, a 6-foot-6 leaper who played the post position for U of L in the mid-'70s and could dominate the 7-footers on other top teams.) Mack, U of L's new coach, was a 6-foot- 5 guard during his own playing days. His top scorer from the Xavier team he led last season to the school's first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament was guard Trevon Bluiett, a 6-foot-6 talent who signed this summer with the Pelicans. Mack has arrived at Louisville during a time when the highest-ranked recruits may be less likely to consider its recently troubled program. A new strategy of necessity may be required. "I've had little vibes from what I've read that Chris might be doing some of the things that we did, in terms of the kind of players he's recruiting," Houston says. "I'm hoping he repeats some of those things, and I'm hoping he can make it work." ese days, Crum gets up when he wakes up, mostly dresses in polos or heavier casual shirts and eats eggs if his wife prepares them or cold cereal if she doesn't. He dotes on his four dogs and already has plans for a fifth, a border collie. en he'll have his team of five. ey patrol the house and the rolling hills outside. A large pond stocked with bass and bluegill spreads out below the back deck, where family and other guests fish. e spacious Crum home has a theater room and indoor pool on either side of the kitchen and a game room downstairs filled with basketball memorabilia. e exercise equipment and pool table down there don't get much use these days, but there are still occasional card games at the casino-size poker table. When there's a basketball game of any relevance on television, Crum can be counted on to run an open house. Family and friends drop by, announced or unannounced, for a plush seat in his company. "I actually pay a lot of attention," Crum says. "I love the game." Roger Burkman, a member of the 1980 championship team and the former player closest to the ex-coach, will come by. e two also fish together. "He's kind of like one of my sons," Crum says. Crum hasn't spoken with Pitino since he went to one of the team's early-season practices more than a year ago, while Pitino was still coach. He worries that the NCAA is not finished meting out punishment to U of L and is waiting for the FBI and court cases to reveal more about the recruitment allegations. Houston notes one effect of recruiting rules that changed during the end of Crum's U of L dynasty. e Cardinal coaching staff, he says, which prided itself on outworking other teams to find talent, lost an edge after the NCAA restricted phone calls and visits with players. But Crum mentions another element of the change — the focus on the crucial July evaluation period, when coaches, including head coaches, are forced to travel to summer tournaments if they want to see top prospects. For Crum, a man accustomed to playing golf four or five times a week and dropping a line in the water whenever possible during the summer, this was an unappealing development. When I ask him if he ever considered coaching anywhere else after leaving his Louisville post, Crum doesn't hesitate with an answer. "I never really thought about it much because I was enjoying the freedom," he says. "When they put in that rule it was right in the middle of the summer — when the fishing is the best." "I don't really believe Rick (Pitino) knew. . .because he was such a stickler. If he said he didn't know, he didn't know. And I'm serious about that. Why would a guy jeopardize his $6-million-a-year job to let something like that go on? He wouldn't."

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