Louisville CardFile: Duke

From the archives of the Perhaps Too Much Personal Information Department:

I’m not much of a crier.

But sometimes.

Like most people, out of abject grief. As last week, when I learned that Carbon, younger brother from another mother of my beloved, recently passed beagle Abbey, expired in the arms of my stepson Sam on a midnight run to the vet.

Like some people, at moments of grateful joy. Which most often is attendant with my great loves, Rock & Roll and Louisville Cardinal hoops.

At hallowed Freedom Hall one night when Springsteen did a hauntingly spare rendition of anthemic “Thunder Road,” with just Danny Federici on keys.

Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk/ And my car’s out back if you’re ready to take that long walk/ From your front porch to my front seat/ The door’s open but the ride it ain’t free/ and I know you’re lonely for words that I ain’t spoken/ Tonight we’ll be free, all the promises will be broken

Rock & Roll’s Holy Trinity is being a teenager, unrequited love and getting away. It’s all right there as pure as ever told.

At Market Square in ’80, when the Cards were cutting down the nets.

And Saturday just before High Noon.

When Kenny Klein led aging Denny Crum along press row toward the midcourt stripe to honor the retiring Duke mentor.

Denny and Coach K hugged.

Not some gratuitous pat on the back thing. But a lingering moment of respect between the two greatest coaches of two of the greatest basketball programs ever.

It was a reminder of what is easily forgotten in these troubled years.

Louisville Basketball matters.

I lost it.

Think what you will of Mike Krzyzewski, here’s what he said after the game:

Before talking about the game, let me just say thank you to the Louisville basketball program for honoring me before the game. They could not have honored me in higher manner then to have Denny here. get emotional, He’s one of the true icons of the game and someone that I’ve admired my entire life when he worked for Coach Wooden and the amazing job he did here. Anyway, that was really special, I hugged him a few times. That was really a great thing, so, thank you. The Louisville program is one of the all-time best, the tradition of excellence and high play is, again, something I’ve watched for my entire life . . . 

It was not perfunctory.

Here’s how K ended his time at the mic:

You guys have one of the best programs in the history of college basketball, and an incredible fan base of loyalty. I’ve watched Louisville forever and I can’t remember when it wasn’t outstanding. That’s what I would say, just move on. Let’s give Mike (Pegues), give these kids the support. They fought like crazy today and they played winning basketball. There’s a lot of games left and with this veteran team that they have, they have a chance to go on a roll.

For me, Saturday wasn’t about Xs and Os, stat lines, turnovers or missed opportunities.

It was about being in the gym when the place was singing the body electric.

About a legitimate head count of 18,493.

About the buzz. The energy on the court. The energy in the stands.

It was about Allen Murphy and Milt and Scooter and Jim Price and Bill Bunton and Dwayne Sutton and the indelible memories their presence fostered.

It was about this admittedly underwhelming U of L band of ballers, nervous and reeling from a wacky week, falling behind 8-24, ten minutes in.

Then outscoring a much more talented, much better coached, legitimate national contender, 57-50 the rest of the way.

It was about knotting the score at 45 early in the 2d on a Dre Davis trey, and the building seeming to lift a bit off its moorings.

It was about 60-60 with eight and a half to play after El Ellis drained a step back triple, when it felt like the building was lifting its river edge to hydroplane down the Ohio.

It was about how a sometimes confused Louisville squad never quit.

It was about the generous applause toward the Cardinals at the final horn. Even though they fell.

 * * * * *

I have no delusions about the rest of the season.

Down the ACC may be, but it’s still a damn tough hoops league.

But if U of L continues to display the grit it did against Blue Devils, the sense of striving for victory whatever the obstacles, I for one will be a satisfied man.

— c d kaplan

7 thoughts on “Louisville CardFile: Duke

  1. Beautifully written. Any longtime Card fan ran a video in his mind of a lifetime of joyous basketball moments as he read your words. Thank you, too, for recording Coach K’s blessings for posterity. They give us pride and strength.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with your post. It was the first time all year that I really really rooted hard down here in South Florida for the cards.

    I think they’re going to win some games the rest of the year and I’m hoping they hire Kenny Payne who fills all the boxes not the least of which is apparently he was a great recruiter for Kentucky and those kids spoke highly of him as a teacher is well.

    I played a lot of golf with a Kenny at the Cardinal Club and he is a class act in every respect I hope they won’t miss the opportunity to have him as a coach.

  3. I am more certain that my grandchildren will see their hometown team rise again, even if I do not.

  4. Positively a euphoric moment in Cardinal basketball history. Let’s watch the Phoenix rise from the ashes.
    Get your butts to the Yum Tuesday and prove that Coach K’s words were not idle platitudes.

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