Olympian Kenny Davis recalls relationship with Denny Crum

Published 5:16 pm Thursday, May 11, 2023

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A promotional poster that hangs on the wall at Papaleno’s Restuarant in Berea tells the story of the relationship between late Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall and Louisville coach Denny Crum, who died on Tuesday.

The poster, titled “Either Way, You Can’t Lose,” featured Hall and Crum promoting Converse, the shoe that dominated the sneaker circuit before the Nike explosion took over the market. Crum and Hall are shown at a table with their hands locked, depicting an arm wrestling match, with a locker and Kentucky and Louisville jerseys hanging behind each coach. Both schools wore Converse at the time, and it wasn’t hard for the two coaches to connect and promote the brand of their era.

As a representative of Converse, former Georgetown College standout and 1972 Olympian and team captain Kenny Davis became acquainted with Crum and Hall during coaching clinics and other events that showcased the two coaches.

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“That gave me an opportunity to be around him (Crum) on many occasions,” Davis said of Crum. “I can honestly say I don’t know of any nicer person or any more of a friendly person than Coach Crum was to me. Denny was pretty much the same person anytime you saw him. He never changed over the years.”

Even after a 40-year career with Converse, Davis remained in touch with Crum.

“He was always kind and he was always someone who was interested in what you were doing, and he never, ever had an ego as far as I was ever concerned being around him,” Davis said.

Crum won two national titles at Louisville in 1980 and 1986 and played and coached under the late John Wooden.

What made Crum successful?

“He could coach, obviously, with his background from UCLA, being around (Wooden), plus he knew how to recruit players,” he said. “His system for a long time was to get as many athletic players as he possibly could, whether they were super basketball players or not.

“He felt like that if he was able to do that in the long run, he could win games with those type of athletes as opposed to maybe even the lesser talented basketball players.”

Following retirement from coaching, Crum and Hall had their radio show, “Joe B. and Denny Show,” and Davis was often a guest on a segment. During one of those times on the radio, Hall and Crum signed posters for Davis, one of which hangs in Papaleno’s and others Davis has for his collection.

Even before the two Hall of Fame coaches joined forces to create their own radio show, both were friends on and off the court.

“A lot of people don’t understand (the relationship between Crum and Hall),” Dais said. “Both of them liked to hunt and fish, and I think they did that on different occasions, even when they weren’t coaching. You would go to coaches’ clinics and different events and there seemed to be absolutely no animosity between them.”

The relationship between Hall and Crum made it easy to promote Converse and was an easy sell for Davis.