"When your alma mater calls," said Denny Crum, "it's not an easy thing to say no." Denny Crum said no.

No to UCLA where he once played point guard and where he used to assist the master. John Wooden, along the way to some of the bruins' 10 national basketball championships in the past 14 years. No, Crum will not succeed Gene Bartow, who bowed out after a 52.9 two year coaching record - but NCAA titles - failed to satisfy the Wooden - spoiled Uclan family.

"Things that were instrumental," said Crum in announcing yesterday he age right where he amassed it over six years as head coach. "were my love for the state of Kentucky, the city of Louisville, the University of Louisville, but most of all, the love for the people and fans of Louisville."

Why, Louisville athletic director Dave Hart interjected. Crum didn't even use the UCLA offer as a lever to pry concessions or higher salary (he draws an estimated $35-40.000 annually in a five-year contract now at midpoint). "It doesn't mean that I wouldn't renegotiate his contract if need be, but we didn't," said Hart.

"Their (UCLA's) program has peaked," Hart predicted. "Louisville is still building toward reaching its peak."

Crum availed on the Louisville news conference to chide "derogatory remarks made about our recruiting." He had tried to light a fire under his talent-hunting staff this spring by pointing out that three Cardinal veterans are in academic trouble, yet observers had a hard time discerning potential superstars in the recruit crop. Heck, you can't grab a Darell Griffith every year.

"No program in the United States including UCLA, ever gets all the players they recruit," Crum countered.

A cynic might toss in that mayhap Crum didn't care for this year's UCLA recruiting by the Bartow staff - and would rather move at a time he could round up his own freshman talent. What, us cynical? . . .