Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith electrified crowds throughout his
college and professional career. Born in Louisville, Ky., Griffith
decided to attend his hometown school of the University of Louisville.
In 1980, he led the Cardinals to their first-ever NCAA championship.
Griffith left Louisville as the school's career scoring leader (2,333
points). He was drafted by the Utah Jazz and led them to Midwest
Division title in 1983-84. Griffith has had his number "35" retired by
both the Cardinals and the Jazz.
Phillip Lee recently caught up with Darrell Griffith to find out how the
Doctor is doing.
Phillip Lee: What are you doing right now?
Darrell Griffith: Well, right now I own a business called Metro Enterprises (in
Louisville). We're a warehouse and distribution firm. We do a lot of
product handling for different corporations like G. E. and Ford Motor
Company. We're Ford Motor Company's distribution point to the local
PL: When did you start that company?
PL: And, how's it been?
DG: It's been great. It's been rolling.
PL: How did you come up with the idea for this company?
DG: Someone ran it across me and across my attorney. He had represented
some folks that had been in it. We gave it a shot and we're good. It's
been doing well.
PL: So, what have you been doing "basketball-wise?"
DG: I play some HORSE, but I haven't played any ball in about five
years. It's due to all that jumping I did when I was young and playing
professional basketball. It took its toll on my left kneecap and, during
the end of my career, it started bothering me. I wore out all the
cartilage from all the pounding. I was playing (to stay in shape)
after my career was over with, but my knee was aching and it would take
me three to four days to get back to normal. It wasn't worth it. So, I
keep myself in shape in other ways.
PL: Talk a little about the University of Louisville and what the school
means to you.
DG: Well, that was the program that got me to the next level. Every
program that I played for -- junior high, high school and college --
played a part, but I think Louisville is the next step to the pros, and
the success I had there anchored my pro career.
PL: What are some of your fondest memories at Louisville?
DG: Obviously, winning the national championship and, being from
Louisville, born and raised here ... I literally put myself out on faith,
promising the city that, before I leave, I'll win a national
championship. God was good enough to let that happen, and also I was
able to get my degree in four years. I was one of the top five
student-athletes in the country when I graduated.
PL: Your senior year at Louisville seemed to be your breakout year.
What was the key to that?
DG: I wanted to get better. I worked out that whole summer. I dedicated
myself to making myself a better player, the best player I could be.
Actually, my goal was to be the best player in the country. And, you
know you can't do that if you're hanging in the car with your boys,
drinking soft drinks and eating potato chips. You know, you gotta go in
the gym and plan to work, and that's what I did.
PL: Do you ever think about the fact that you were part of history?
That you helped Louisville win its first-ever championship?
DG: I think we were the foundation to the programs that existed in the
early '80s. What was really special for me was that this is my hometown.
I was born and raised here and still live here. To have that happen, to
be the first is very special to the city and to me. Anytime you win at
the highest level like that, it's always going to stay with you.
PL: You seem to have a commitment to Louisville.
DG: Well, my family's here. I'm a family-oriented person. My mom and
dad, I'm fortunate enough that they're still living. I have three kids,
who are grown now, and, you know, just a lot of opportunities for me
here. When I played at Utah and the season was over, I always came back
home. So, I kind of feel comfortable here.
PL: Do you still keep in touch with your Louisville teammates?
DG: Oh, yeah. I see them all. Most of the guys who played with me in
1980 still live in Louisville. Jerry Eaves is the assistant coach for
Charlotte now. Wally Brown has a position with the University
Louisville. Scooter McCray used to be the assistant coach (at
Louisville). Rodney is in and out of Louisville. Roger Burkman lives
here. Tony Branch and Daryl Cleveland are living here. I mean, all the
guys stay here.
PL: Do you guys get together often?
DG: We go out to lunch here and there. Maybe not collectively, but
sometimes we might, about five or six of us might go have a bite or
whatever. I think the last time we got together collectively, was last
year, our 20th year reunion of our national championship team.
PL: Talk a little bit about your career with the Utah Jazz.
DG: Coming from a national championship team and going to a team that
only won 20-22 games in my first year was very disappointing to me. It
was probably the lowest moment in my professional career, to go from a
high to a low like that. But, you know, it was my job. I had to put
things in perspective and say "hey, God put you here to grow this team
and to make this team into a contender." After my third year, we were
Midwest Division Champions. So, that was a proud moment for me. Myself,
Rickey Green, Adrian Dantley, Mark Eaton. We were all there at the
PL: I guess the question that everyone wants to know is how you got your
nickname, Dr. Dunkenstein?
DG: Well, I was young; I grew up in the funkadelic Parliament era. And,
you know, George Clinton had a character called Dr. Funkenstein. And,
it kind of came from that. My brother and the homeboys in the
neighborhood sort of tagged me with the nickname.
PL: When did you start getting your knee problems?
DG: Probably about 1986-87. Dr. Dunkenstein was paying his toll. The
latter part of my career, I might surprise you and dunk here and there,
but I didn't really do the things I did playing my first seven years. It
became more of a "hey, I ain't trying to go out here and be Dr. D. I'll
try to stay in the league for longevity." I had a balanced game, an
all-around game. I was missing some things in my game, but I had other
things that made me the player that I was.
PL: And that basically was what caused you to call it quits?
DG: Well, at the end of my career, I asked to be released. I went to
talk to the owner and told him that it was changing of the guard. I
wasn't playing a lot and I really didn't want to go out that way. So, I
said to myself that I was going to go to (Larry Miller), who is a great
owner and explain my situation to him and ask him to release me and, if
another team picks me up, then at least I know they want my services and
they're not just picking me up for a spot. I had some offers, but they
weren't really contenders. I had some overseas offers, the money was
good, but at that time, I had to make the decision to say "hey, this is
it; God's been good". I wanted to go back to Louisville and be with my
kids. They didn't stay with me while I was in Utah, so I was glad to be
around and give them some time. It was a good time for me to do that. I
didn't regret it at all.
PL: When you decided to call it quits, was it hard for you to make the
adjustment from basketball?
DG: No. It wasn't hard for me because (I had) people in my life that
were guiding me right and telling me that, "hey, this thing isn't going
to last forever." You've got to condition yourself and your mind to do
something different. As my career progressed in Utah, I started watching
players and how they left the game, what they'd be doing, and started
thinking about life after basketball way before it was over with.
PL: So, did you have any regrets about leaving the game when you did?
DG: Only that I wasn't able to win a championship and, due to my knee
condition, that I wasn't able to leave the way I really wanted to . . .
at the top of my game. But, you know, I can't complain. I've been
blessed, and just the opportunity to play in the NBA is a blessing in
itself. I walked away from the game with a smile.