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Mr. Tommy Kron

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Mr. Tommy Kron Obituary

Member of 'Rupp's Runts' dead at 64

By Jennifer Hewlett
KENTUCKY.COM


Tommy Kron, a guard on one of the University of Kentucky’s most famous men’s basketball teams — Rupp’s Runts — died of complications from cancer Thursday at his home in Louisville. He was 63.

When he was in elementary school, Mr. Kron wrote legendary UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp expressing interest in playing for the college basketball powerhouse. After Mr. Kron made the team years later, he found himself setting up plays so teammates Pat Riley and Louie Dampier, who became All-Americans, could score.

Mr. Kron helped lead the Wildcats to more than 20 consecutive wins and to the NCAA championship game during the year of Rupp’s Runts, 1965-66. Years later, he would see his 1965-66 team depicted in the movie Glory Road, about the championship game in which the all-white UK team lost to an all-black Texas Western team 72-65.

At 6-foot-5, Mr. Kron was not tall by UK men’s basketball standards, but no one in the 1965-66 UK starting lineup was any taller, and the team was nicknamed Rupp’s Runts.

“Tommy was probably one of our most under-rated people,” said Russell Rice, a former UK sports publicist and author of several books on UK sports history. “He played point guard, and he played great defense on the one-three-one (zone) when we first started it. Of course, his height helped him there.”

Mr. Kron and Larry Conley, Rice said, made big sacrifices when they concentrated on play-making and setting up teammates Riley and Dampier.

“That was a great sacrifice. They were seniors, and Riley and Dampier were juniors. It was something for seniors to make the sacrifice.”

Rice said that Mr. Kron played a big role in UK’s win over Duke in the 1963 Sugar Bowl. Mr. Kron guarded Duke star Jeff Mullins during the last part of the game, which UK won 81-79.

“Tommy was a sophomore. He shut out Jeff Mullins. I credit Tommy a lot with winning that championship.”

Mr. Kron, Rice said, “was fast, aggressive, could set up plays and he never quit.”

Mr. Kron averaged 12.3 points a game as a junior and 10.2 points a game as a senior.

The Owensboro native went to UK after graduating from Tell City High School in Indiana, where he lettered in basketball, football and track. He was a member of a Tell City state championship basketball team.

After leaving UK, he played for the St. Louis Hawks and the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA and the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA.

He was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.

“I give him a lot of credit for being the complete team player and helping make the Rupp’s Runts what they were,” said former UK head coach Joe B. Hall, who was Rupp’s assistant coach during the 1965-66 year.

Mr. Kron, Hall said, was “a complete player, offensively and defensively, and was one of the better-liked players at the University of Kentucky.”

Mr. Kron, a business major at UK, was in the investment business after his basketball days. Most recently, he worked for PNC Bank.

He was diagnosed with bladder cancer just over a year ago.

“He remained extremely positive until the very end,” said his daughter, Jessica Kron Spears. “He had visitors from all around the country and the state coming by to say goodbye.”

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Kron is survived by his wife, Dianne Berger Kron; his mother, Mary Mason Kron; a son, Jason Alexander Kron; and four grandchildren.

Pearson Funeral Home on Breckenridge Lane in Louisville is handling arrangements.

Published in Lexington Herald-Leader from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4, 2007
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