There is so much interesting history in the 11 men who have coached men’s basketball at Bellarmine University, headed of course by loquacious and personable Scott Davenport, who led the Knights to victory in the NCAA’s Division II national championship.
Davenport has set the bar high, that’s for sure, because the crown was Bellarmine’s first on the national level.
Davenport is one of two Bellarmine coaches who have also guided teams to the state high school championship. He did it in 1988 at Ballard High School in Louisville. The other coach who moved up to the college level was Joe Reibel, who won with Louisville St. Xavier in 1962. Reibel is Bellarmine’s winningest coach with a record of 346-277.
Groza most famous
The most famous Bellarmine coach was Alex Groza, the Fabulous Five great at the University of Kentucky. He was All-American, Gold Medal winner in the 1948 London Olympics and first team NBA.
Groza told me an interesting recruiting story. He was trying to recruit one of Kentucky’s all-time great players.
“I knew that I didn’t have a chance to get him, but I liked his daddy, who liked bourbon,” said Groza. “The daddy said, ‘Oh, coach, I could talk much better if I had something in my stomach.’
“So each time I went back, I took him a bottle.”
Knights and Cards!
The only man who has been head coach at both the University of Louisville and Bellarmine was Eddie Weber.
The first Bellarmine coach was Norb Raque, a close friend of John Tong, the public address announcer for U of L, Kentucky Colonels and many State Tournaments.
Paulie Miller, one of the all-time great Kentucky high school football coaches (at Louisville’s old Flaget) coached basketball two seasons at Bellarmine. He had been a standout player in high school at St. X.
Bob Valvano, now an ESPN personality who does some U of L games, was a unique Bellarmine coach. He was a member of Mensa, an international organization for only the brightest 2 percent of people on Earth.
Jim Spalding devoted 43 years of his life to Bellarmine as a star player, a winning coach and director of athletics. He was present for the big celebration at Knights Hall.
Three other men have coached the Knights: Gene Kenney, Charlie Just and Chris Pullem.
Where goes UK?
Britt Brockman, chairman of UK’s board of trustees, has appointed a 10-person committee who will study possible changes in the governance and organization of the university’s athletics.
The usual suspects are members, including Brockman and retiring president Lee T. Todd.
Former Wildcat basketball player Terry Mobley, a former vice president and now a trustee, will chair the committee.
I could save the 10 members a lot of time and trouble. My advice: Quit throwing away so much money. Start giving it to faculty members who have not had raises in three years.
Also cut all scholarship teams except men’s and women’s basketball and men’s football. Keep enough women’s scholarships as there are football scholarships. That would satisfy Title 9.
Quit spending millions trying to win $200,000 by winning the athletic directors’ competition. The ADs are a sly bunch.
Shoop a member
Other trustee members: Frank Shoop, Billy Joe Miles, Bill Gatton and Keith Gannon.
Non-trustee members: Scott Smith, agriculture dean; agriculture professor Lionel Williamson; pharmacy professor Joseph Fink and NCAA faculty representatives Jim Hardymon and Mira Bell, both former trustee chairs.
What to do with some of the savings from sports that would be ended: Establish the finest intramural program in the county. Do something different; let honest-to-goodness students play.
You think that could happen. Of course not! Who cares about real students and their teachers? That is the question for the athletics governance study.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Earl Cox, Sports Columnist
Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.