- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The city's business community and Julian Carroll, who was the Kentucky governor until last month, supposedly got behind an effort to build a new arena for the school, but now that another man inhabits the statehouse, the fear is that the bills for first lady Phyllis George Brown's smiling lessons will take precedence over any new sweatbox funds. Not to mention the fact that the local school is probably still only second in the hearts of local fans. "Is this a Kentucky town or a Louisville town?" the Courier-Journal man said, repeating the question. "Just ask Digger Phelps." Phelps brings his Notre Dame team into Freedom Hall to play—and lose to—Kentucky every December, and 10,000 or so of those putative Louisville fans traditionally show up just to watch the 'Cats run through their morning-before-the-game practice.
Intrastate frustrations aside, Crum has always been a calm, easygoing sort with a California laid-backness that, critics say, extends to his teams and results in their bland, unemotional performances in the crunch. "I learned from Coach Wooden not to yell and scream at players," says Crum. "If you get the right kind of kids who want to win, they should push themselves."
But Crum admits he has been tougher on this season's team, owing to what the voluble Smith characterizes as "our amazing youngness." When veteran Bobby Turner failed to earn enough credits to remain eligible and then McCray got hurt, Louisville was left with only one starter from last year, the aforementioned Dunkenstein, otherwise known as Darrell Griffith. Thus, practices have been harder, the coach sterner, and the Cardinals have been making up for a lack of height and experience by pressing full court for 40 minutes of every game.
"This is a different type team than any of the others I've played on," says the 6'4", high-jumping Griffith. "We're smarter, closer. There's more energy. We laugh more. These kids will not give up."
Brains and fundamentals—normally in short supply on Louisville squads—have been supplied by Smith, a "sleeper" recruit out of tiny Hogansville, Ga., and by McCray's replacement on the front line, 6'7". 220-pound Rodney McCray, who, despite possessing what may be the most gigantic rear end in the sport, is affectionately known as Scooter's "little" brother.
When McCray, S., was injured at Tennessee, McCray, R., stepped in to lead all rebounders with seven in Louisville's 77-75 surprise win. Griffith scored 32 points against the Vols, while all Smith did was make seven of eight shots.
The 6'6" Smith, lean and barely out of swaddling clothes—he started school at four and thus was only 16 upon entering college in the fall of 1978—has the range of an archer, and he has shot 62.5% over his 1� seasons on the varsity. He will be a star. Partial to the "bald slicker treatment" down at Means' Barber Shop, Smith claims his shaved pate "lightens my top for better rebounding."
On the other hand—Brown's right one, to be specific—Louisville's other sophomore Georgia forward was more severely burdened when, as a child, his gangrenous right thumb had to be removed by surgery. Now, despite wearing an orthoplast mold of his left thumb and surgical glove to cover it during games, Brown is averaging 9.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a game, while communicating with Smith in pig Latin.
Smith-to-Brown on the "ob-lay" is a favored maneuver as is, of course, the "ack-bay oor-day," which the pair has pulled off several times with a verbal signal that has thoroughly puzzled the opposition as well as the Cards themselves. "I don't know, what the hell they're talking about," says Griffith.
The fate of this funny, enthusiastic Louisville crew ultimately rests on Dunkenstein—or Dr. Dunk, or just plain Griff—as everybody has understood it would each year since the All-America moseyed down the road from nearby Male High School to be "the next David Thompson." If Griffith hasn't exactly accomplished that, he has led the Cardinals to three NCAA tournaments and is now enjoying his finest season, finally demonstrating some defense and working under control on offense, in lieu of his past spectacular dunking forays every time down the court.