Cardinal Basketball Quick Fact:
Darrell Griffith and Pervis Ellison are the
only two Cardinals to earn first team All-Metro Conference honors three times.
The beginning of two beautiful love affairs
'80 Cards were self-made men
Celebration honoring champions will span three days
One reader remembers: Even a Memphis fan got hooked on the Cardinals
In January 1980 I had just started dating a wonderful person by the name of Marilyn Smith, and I quickly decided she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. She, however, had not reached a similar conclusion regarding me. She was at that time a long-term holder of U of L season tickets, and we went to all the home games. I was a fan of both U of L and another team in our state, but I quickly saw the wisdom of cheering for only one program.
Courting is stressful, and things do not always turn out as you plan. For example, I gave her flowers and took her out to dinner for Valentine's Day, but I ran out of money and she had to pick up the tab.
My big chance at redemption was the Final Four. The tournament was in Indianapolis, and I was able to obtain tickets for us. On the drive up (the car was a moving advertisement for the Cardinals), we hooted and tooted with a trucker from Iowa, our semifinal opponent. He was showing us an "Iowa" sign. Marilyn quickly made and held up a sign: "IoWHO?"
It was the Final Four when Marilyn finally decided I was a risk worth taking. We became engaged later that summer, have been married 19 years and still have season tickets.
'Played as a team, accepted their roles'
My favorite memory of the '80 champs was their tenacity and work ethic. They played together as a team, and everyone accepted their roles. This team represented the very fiber of Louisville basketball for true fans.
They never gave away games; other teams had to take them, which only happened three times. They fought hard for 40 minutes, not just 20.
Dr. Dunkenstein (Darrell Griffith) was, and is, my favorite all-time player because he played hard every game. Even though he had immense talent, he strived to improve each year, and he did. He brought our first championship, just as he promised at his Male High School press conference announcing his signing with the Cardinals.
Griff was a Louisville native who grew up a fan and became a player, so he represented every fan who grew up wanting to play for Louisville -- and to bring home a national championship.
Also, Griff's alley-oop dunk against St. John's was the most spectacular dunk I have ever seen, even to this very day. May the Doctor of Dunk live on!
'Heartfelt thank you' to the '80 champions
The most powerful moment I remember of that championship season occurred Dec. 19, when second-ranked and unbeaten Ohio State came to Louisville. I was a senior at Doss High School, and my friend Scott Miller invited me to go to the game on a school night. We were right under the basket. I could actually see the sweat spray off the players as they slammed against each other for a rebound. The roar of the crowd was so loud and constant that I could feel the floor shake under my feet.
I remember how Griffith, Smith and McCray played like warriors as they defeated the Buckeyes 75-65. I watched the intensity in their eyes all night. For me, that game set the course for the rest of the season.
In fact, I went to school the next day boldly proclaiming that the Cards were going to be the 1980 NCAA champions. My UK friends in the lunchroom laughed at me. That season was made even sweeter when Doss went all the way to the championship game of the state basketball tournament.
To the members of the '80 team, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you.
Barry A. Royalty
Griffith or Macy?
One dunk settles it
Nineteen-eighty was truly a great experience for U of L fans. My biggest memory happens to be one you mentioned: the St. John's alley-oop dunk by Griff.
My cousin and I had a running "discussion" on who was the best player in the country -- Griff or (Kentucky's) Kyle Macy. He, being a UK fan, always argued Macy. We watched most of the St. John's game. When Griff made that dunk, my cousin's mouth dropped open and he just stared. After the game he conceded: Griff was better.
Georgetown, Ind. 47122
Jerry Stringer story was 'best of all'
My favorite player of the '80 team is Darrell Griffith, Dr. Dunkenstein. The one moment that sticks out is the extraordinary windmill dunk Griff had against LSU. It was awesome.
That team was destined to win. The best of all, as I remember, was when the Cards cut down the nets and brought back the game ball and put the nets around Jerry Stringer, the friend of the team who was really close to Darrell. He later died of cancer.
That was a team of class.
Bryan K. Smith
Not bad for 'a bunch of Kentucky rejects'
As a 1974 graduate of U of L and an avid fan, I have many memories of the 1980 season.
1. The Midwest Regional final was against LSU. I remember the LSU players were very confident before the game and were doing their usual trash-talking. The one thing they said that I'll never forget was that U of L was "just a bunch of Kentucky (as in University of) rejects." Maybe that was what we needed to get us really fired up. I remember Darrell Griffith and Roger Burkman saying they used it for motivation. It sure worked, because we embarrassed them 86-66.
The end of the game was a U of L dunk exhibition. Griff said that he wanted to show them how the "Kentucky Rejects" played ball.
2. Who could ever forget Poncho "Never Wrong" Wright proclaiming that "The Ville is going to the Nap"?
3. Of course, the final game against UCLA has many memories, but one particular play really stands out. I remember UCLA leading 54-50, with the momentum having switched in the Bruins' favor. With about four minutes to go, Kiki Vandeweghe had just stolen a pass and was headed downcourt for a wide-open layup. For all practical purposes, if he made that layup, the game was probably over. I'll never forget Jerry Eaves cutting in front of Vandeweghe just enough to cause him to shoot an off-balance shot that, fortunately, missed. U of L went on to score the final nine points of the game to win 59-54. National champions at last!
4. What a wonderful season. We even had our own adopted theme to help us celebrate it -- "The Is It," by Kenny Loggins. We played it before every NCAA game for luck. Who knows? Maybe that was why we won!
Loved seeing former teammates win title
My name is David Smith, and I played on the University of Louisville basketball team from 1974-78.
My favorite memory was seeing several former teammates win the championship. Darrell Griffith, Tony Branch, Roger Burkman, Greg Deuser, Marty Pulliam and Daryl Cleveland were all freshmen when I was a junior. I remember the poise and class that Tony Branch showed during the 1980 season when his playing time became limited, then responded with his clutch shot against Kansas State.
Also, although Griffith had spectacular dunks that year, the most spectacular dunk I ever saw him make was against Marshall when I was still playing. Coach Crum called an alley-oop play for Darrell. The ball was thrown too low, but he grabbed it below the rim and dunked it on his way up. Unbelievable!
'These guys were heroes' to ballboy
I was a ballboy for the Louisville Cardinals during the 1979-1980 basketball season. That whole season is full of memories for me, most of which I have relived many times.
One of my jobs was to rebound balls during warmups. One game I was there a little early and only Tony Branch was shooting around. I began rebounding balls for him, and he exchanged a little small talk with me. After about five minutes of shagging balls, he let me shoot a couple. I dribbled out to the free-throw line, planning to just shoot a free throw. As I turned around, Tony had taken a defensive position against me. Of course, he was just playing around, but he did let me get a few shots off on him, and, boy, did I have a story to tell the next day at school.
To a wide-eyed 12-year-old, these guys were heroes. As I got older, I realized they were regular guys, college kids, but to me they always were and always will be larger than life.
Kyle B. Greenwald
A vote for Eaves - from a biased fan
My favorite player on the 1980 championship team was Jerry Eaves, No. 5, the point guard (at right).
There are two games that I can never forget in which Jerry contributed greatly to the victory. The first was against LSU, when Darrell Griffith was called for three fouls in the opening minutes and Jerry did an excellent job handling the ball with no turnovers.
The second was the final game for the championship against UCLA in Indianapolis. The Cards were behind 54-50 late in the game when Jerry made an important steal and then made two baskets that tied the game before Griffith made the winning shot.
Please understand that I may be a little biased, as I am the proud aunt of Jerry Eaves. I am a graduate of the old Louisville Municipal College of the University of Louisville.
Gladys Eaves Hutchison
Frankfort, Ky. 40601
McCray was team's 'best all-around player'
Without a doubt, Rodney McCray (at right) was the best all-around player on the 1980 Louisville championship team. I loved to watch Darrell Griffith, and I think the rest of that team was very good, but make no mistake about it, "the man" was Scooter's little brother.
He was a good shot-blocker, he rebounded well, and though I don't know his stats, I would bet he also had a pretty good scoring average.
My best memory of that 1980 team was when we were playing UCLA and Rod Foster stole the ball from Darrell Griffith and was streaking down the floor for a sure layup, and McCray caught up with him, pinned the ball on the backboard and pulled down the rebound.
Rank 15th best team of all time
Coach: Denny Crum F: 6-6 Derek Smith 14.8 F: 6-7 Rodney McCray 7.8
C: Wiley Brown 10.4
G: 6-4 Darrell Griffith 22.9 G: 6-3 Jerry Eaves 7.7
Griffith's 23 points and the Cardinals' tough defense stopped UCLA, 59-54, in the championship game.
6-4 — G
Louisville, KY (Male H.S.)
Wooden Award winner in 1980. ... NCAA unanimous first-team All-American in 1980. ... Ranked 21st in the nation in scoring in 1980. ... Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 1980 (57 points, 15 assists, 62.2 FG%). ... Leading scorer and fourth-leading rebounder for 1980 NCAA champion (33-3 record). ... Averaged 20.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 10 NCAA Tournament games from 1977-80 (7-3 record). ... Selected by the Utah Jazz in first round of 1980 NBA draft (2nd pick overall).
Season Gms FGM-FGA FG% FTM-FTA FT% Reb Avg Pts Avg
1976-77 28 150-299 .502 59-93 .634 109 3.8 359 12.8
1977-78 30 240-460 .522 78-110 .709 162 5.4 558 18.6
1978-79 32 242-487 .497 107-151 .709 140 4.4 591 18.5
1979-80 36 349-631 .553 127-178 .713 174 4.8 825 22.9
Totals 126 981-1877 .523 371-532 .697 585 4.6 2333 18.5