The team of the 1980s is running out of time, and now its coach says it already is too late.
Louisville started the decade with a national championship in 1980, and won another in 1986.
The Cardinals came within a day of taking over the No. 1 spot in the polls this season, but a loss to Ohio State Jan. 29 spoiled their chance.
Since then, almost nothing has gone right--including, most memorably, the goaltending call in Pauley Pavilion. Starting with the loss to Ohio State, Louisville has lost six of 11 games.
On Monday, Coach Denny Crum went on record with what surely is one of the earliest concession speeches in basketball history.
“The way this team has been playing, its chances are slim to none,” Crum told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “This team isn’t good enough. They had a chance to be, but they haven’t made progress because they haven’t paid the price and played with intensity.
“They wasted three weeks and six or eight games of an opportunity to get better, and now there isn’t enough time to overcome what they’ve missed. In my opinion, this team has very little chance, if any, to be a competitor at year’s end. They don’t work hard enough. They can beat some of those (National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament) teams, but they can’t win it. They have no shot.”
Crum, who had threatened to make lineup changes last week, made some for the Cardinals’ game against Cincinnati Wednesday, pulling Keith Williams and Tony Kimbro out of the starting five. Different players, same result: Louisville lost, 77-71.
Afterward, Crum was kinder to his players than he had been earlier in the week.
“I really feel bad for my kids,” he said. “They wanted to win so badly.
“I guess the pressure has just gotten to them and they haven’t been able to play up to their ability. We’ve tried just about everything. I’ve been doing this 29 years, and I’ve never had a team in this frame of mind this late in the year. I don’t know what to do for them. . . . I wish I knew a simple little magic answer.”
The Cardinals’ troubles started that day against Ohio State, when Pervis Ellison--the outstanding player of the ’86 title team as a freshman--injured his knee. Ohio State went on to win.
Louisville won its next two games, against Virginia Tech and Memphis State, without him. Ellison returned, but next came a three-point loss to Florida State. After a victory over Cincinnati, the Cardinals lost the game to UCLA on the questionable goaltending call against Ellison.
Then, after a victory over Florida State, came a loss to Memphis State. Then a victory over Southern Mississippi. Then a loss to South Carolina. Then the loss to Cincinnati.
Louisville, which opened the season 0-2 but then won its next 14 straight, is a 19-8 team with one regular-season game left--against Notre Dame today.
Add team of the ‘80s: If Crum is right, and the Cardinals have no shot at the championship, the only team with a chance to win three titles in this decade is third-ranked Indiana, which won in 1981 and 1987.
For perspective on how long it has been since Louisville won the 1980 championship with Darrell Griffith with a victory over UCLA, consider this: Tony Branch, a reserve on that team, is a first-year head coach at Lamar, in Beaumont, Tex.
More ancient history: If Arizona beats UCLA today and stays at the top of the polls, it will be the first time since 1975 that a Pacific 10 team has been No. 1 in the final poll.
UCLA, of course, was the last Pac-10 team to manage that.
Play on: The routine in the proliferating cases in which college athletes are arrested or charged with crimes has been to suspend the player, pending the outcome of the investigation or trial.
By so doing, a school avoids the appearance of condoning the action, yet at the same time allows that the athlete may be innocent.
But at Texas San Antonio, where reserve Keith Horne recently was arrested for allegedly attempting to strangle a woman in a restroom on a team trip to DeLand, Fla., the player has not been suspended. Horne, a reserve, is still with the team.
Add Texas San Antonio: The Roadrunners’ coach, Ken Burmeister, is one of three candidates being interviewed for the Cal State Fullerton coaching job.
Burmeister, a former assistant to Lute Olson at Arizona and Iowa, took Texas-San Antonio to the NCAA tournament in only his second season as coach last year. He interviewed for the Fullerton job last Sunday.
UCLA assistant Paul Landreaux interviewed last Monday, and acting coach John Sneed, the front-runner, is scheduled to interview Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.
Whither the WAC: Remember how impressed you were with the Western Athletic Conference last season? Recall how Fennis Dembo helped Wyoming to a 26-6 record? How Brigham Young was undefeated after 17 games?
Neither team is so impressive now.
Disappointment met disappointment Thursday when BYU beat Wyoming, 71-67. That brought BYU’s record to 14-13 and dropped Wyoming’s to 13-16.
Locker room guest of the season--so far: After Duke had lost to Arizona at East Rutherford, N.J., Sunday, former President Richard M. Nixon stopped by to offer his sympathy, the Arizona Republic reported.
Nixon, of course, is a graduate of Duke’s law school.
Duke’s Christian Laettner, who missed the first of a one-and-one with Duke trailing by two in the final seconds, reported that Nixon told the players he had made a few shots like that in his day--and missed a few.
The Duke players, Laettner said, “just chuckled.”
College Basketball Notes
Seton Hall needs one more victory to make it six straight seasons that the Pirates have improved on the previous year’s victory total. They went 6-23 in 1982-83, P.J. Carlesimo’s first season as coach. The succeeding records: 9-19, 10-18, 14-18, 15-14, 22-13 and this season’s start of 22-5.