As a freshman, Darrell Griffith (above) of Louisville may have been the most exciting college player in the country. A leaper in the Dr. J class, Griffith stimulated a big increase in home attendance and gave the Cardinals a new identity as "the Doctors of Dunk."
Even Coach Denny Crum was affected by the excitement, and early last season he changed the Cardinal offense to allow Griffith and his teammates more freedom. "We did things differently at the end of the break," says Crum. "Instead of setting up, we went to our 'fast' offense, which is more free-lance." The results were dramatic. Until Forward Larry Williams hurt a foot late in the season, Crum may have had the best team in the country. Without Williams, the Cardinals collapsed in the Metro Seven tournament.
Gone from that team are Forward Wes Cox and Guard Phil Bond, but Griffith and Williams are back. So are 6'11" Center Ricky Gallon, Swingman Rick Wilson and Forward Bobby Turner. Smaller but quicker than last season, the Cardinals will press more on defense and keep doctoring on offense. Says Crum, "When I think of this team, I see lights flashing on the scoreboard."
Whether Louisville can hold its own against the heavyweights on its schedule—Marquette, Las Vegas and Cincinnati twice, to name a few—will depend a lot on Griffith. Used last season as the sixth man, he is now a starter who will swing between forward and guard. What Crum hopes to do is use Griffith at forward on offense, where he can utilize his quickness and jumping to beat larger, slower opponents, and at guard on defense, where his weaknesses will be less easily exploited. "We've been working hard on Darrell's fundamentals," says Crum. "Surprisingly, he never mastered some of the basics. He has so much ability, he didn't have to. When he improves his fundamentals, he'll be a great player."
November 28, 1977
Behind the Iron Curtain, Griffith is already considered great. Last summer he took his slam dunks to Bulgaria and wowed the Communist press. The scribes interrogated Crum about what secret training methods he used to enable Griffith to jump so high and hang so long. When Crum said he had nothing to do with it, the writers shorted in disbelief.
Unable to break Crum, the writers then put Griffith on the grill. "I told them it was a God-given talent," says Griffith. "That really confused them, 'cause they don't believe in God. When I said that, they started mumbling in some funny ol' language."
Dr. Darrell does that to people.