| Overall UK Wins: 12 | Overall UK Losses: 0 | Win % 100 |
Date of Birth: July 7, 1916
Date of Death: September 29, 1992
Hometown: Sharon, PA
Alma Mater: John Carroll
Notes: Future University of Louisville head basketball coach
For a generalized listing of officials, please consult this page.
|12/1/1943||Fort Knox at Kentucky||W||51 - 18||20||21||24||22||0||2||-||Referee - John Dromo (Cincinnati) and Umpire - John Showalter (Georgetown)|
|1/8/1945||Arkansas State at Kentucky||W||75 - 6||8||6||8||9||0||0||-||Jim Beiersdorfer (Oregon) and John Dromo (Cincinnati)|
|1/13/1945||Michigan State at Kentucky||W||66 - 35||11||11||14||12||0||0||-||John Dromo (Cincinnati) and Jim Beiersdorfer (Oregon)|
|1/29/1945||Georgia at Kentucky||W||73 - 37||7||15||19||9||0||0||-||Jim Beiersdorfer (Oregon) and John Dromo (Cincinnai)|
|11/30/1946||Tulane at Kentucky||W||64 - 35||20||22||30||28||0||3||-||John Dromo (Cincinnati) and John Showalter (Georgetown)|
|12/9/1946||Idaho at Kentucky||W||65 - 35||14||15||18||14||0||1||-||Referee - John Dromo (Cincinnati) and Umpire - John Showalter (Georgetown)|
|1/4/1947||Ohio at Kentucky||W||46 - 36||17||16||21||20||0||0||-||John Dromo (Cincinnati) and Tom Green (Georgetown)|
|2/10/1947||Georgia at Kentucky||W||81 - 40||15||27||31||16||0||1||-||Jim Beiersdorfer (Cincinnati) and John Dromo (Xavier)|
|2/22/1947||Georgia Tech at Kentucky||W||83 - 46||19||23||28||19||0||2||-||Dan Tehan (Xavier) and John Dromo (Cincinnati)|
|12/10/1947||Kentucky vs. DePaul||W||74 - 50||20||20||28||23||0||2||-||Bowser Chest and John Dromo|
|1/24/1948||Cincinnati at Kentucky||W||70 - 43||23||15||17||29||1||0||-||John Showalter and John Dromo|
|2/21/1949||Georgia at Kentucky||W||95 - 40||20||27||32||23||0||3||-||John Showalter and John Dromo|
Biography - U of L Magazine (? ?, ?)
A year after he'd had his heart attack. the national anthem sounded in Freedom HaII and John Dromo looked across the floor from his courtside seat and saw five guys standing at attention. Those five guys he was looking at were players he recruited at U of L, players he'd sweated with, Ioved with, lost with and won with. They were his boys, but now Denny Crum was the coach.
For a minute Dromo lost his ever-present cool. His Italian emotions took over. As he raised his hand to his heart and his head to the flag . . . . tears fell from his eyes. It was a moment of despair. A moment Dromo vowed he would never let happen again. Never would he feel sorry for himself for the way in which he lost his job.
Dromo retired this spring, having been a basketball, golf or football coach in 40 years at Louisville, the longest coaching stint in the school's history.
Things have changed over the years, actually skyrocketed since Crum took over the head coaching job from Dromo at Louisville in 1971. Crum took an above average basketball program and lifted it to superstardom with his two national championships in the '80's. The surface that Bernard "Peck" Hickman, who was the head coach for 23 years, and Dromo cultivated, Crum brought to life.
But over the years Hickman and Crum have been the two celebrated heroes of U of L's basketball success, while Dromo has occasionally been thrown a morsel or two. And, as Mark Twain once said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies. damned lies and statistics."
Statistics say Dromo coached U of L in 91 games in three and a half years, winning 68 of the contests. Statistics say he is second behind Crum with a .717 winning percentage. Statistics says John Dromo, given a few more years, could have been a great success.
"I think he would have been very, very successful." Hickman said.
Dromo assisted Hickman from 1948 until the day in 1967 Peck stepped down and Dromo stepped up to become the head coach. Hickman and Dromo won 363 games, averaging 19 wins in their 19 seasons together. In the 1955-56 season U of L won the NIT of yesteryear behind Charlie Tyra. Dromo still wears his weathered championship ring today. For 19 years he set out on the road to find superstars like Wes Unseld and Johnny Unitas (he was an assistant football coach in '48). For 19 years he contributed advice on the bench, with no certainty it would ever be used. For 19 years he paid his proverbial dues.
AII for what? To be struck down on the second day of 1971. one night after a game against Tulsa when his heart "started beating like a stuck accelerator." To have his career go up in smoke when doctors advised him to quit the game. To have demons bother him the rest of his life, asking him, "John, what if?" A fate worse than death.
"It was a tough break for John," Hickman said. "He had a good basketball mind. I was sorry for him. He worked so hard."
"To me it was like a divorce or a death, it was over with," Dromo flatly says about never coaching basketball again. "It was a blessing. It put 17 years on my life."
"But it was beginning to be a different game," he continues. "The fifties was the decade of the handshake. The sixties was the letter-of-intent. From the seventies on it has been the decade of the deals. You could see it coming. We,d go two or three years and a kid would never ask for anything. All of a sudden a kid would want to know how many passes or how many tickets he wasgoing to get to the game. I'd tell kids we didn't do that, and they'd say, "Well, they're doing it down there.'"
Dromo was teaching up the road at Male High School before he came to U of L. Hickman spotted Dromo refereeing a game one day and told John Heldman, a U of L official, to offer Dromo $25 to call a Cardinal game. Dromo politely declined, saying he always got $35 a game. Five minutes later Heldman came up with an extra ten. Dromo knew then that "Hickman traveled fast."
A year later Hickman sent Dromo a letter telling him that he would like Dromo to referee any or all the games he wanted. Soon Hickman persuaded Dromo to join him on the bench.
"To this day I'll never know why peck picked me," Dromo says. "Honestly, I didn't know where the University of Louisville was in those days."
"We didn't have a great reputation," Hickman said. "Didn't have alumni across the country helping us. That is where John was so important. he was a great recruiter."
"At the beginning it was tough," Dromo says about the recruiting. "A lot of times I'd go to a kid's house and say that I was John Dromo from the University of Louisville in Kentucky. And he would say, 'Oh, yes, how's coach Rupp?' That would kind of burn me up, and I would say to myself if I ever got him to the University of Louisville, I'd teach him the difference between Adolph Rupp and John Dromo."
And there was a difference. As Rupp and his assistant, Harry Lancaster, were winning one SEC championship after another with local white talent, Dromo was out recruiting black athletes. The move was a gutsy one, but also one of innovation.
With it came Wade Houston in 1963, the Cards' first black basketball player, Eddie Whitehead ('64), Dave Gilbert ('64), Unseld ('65) and Butch Beard ('66). Following them came Jim Price, Allen Murphy, Wesley Cox, Darrell Griffith and on and on. Dromo was ahead of his time. Kentucky wouldn't sign its first black. Tom Payne. until 1971. (JPS Note: Rupp and Kentucky actually began recruiting black athletes in 1964, including Wes Unseld and Butch Beard among others.)
"I think he took a stand and recruited black athletes," Beard says about Dromo. "He recruited players like me and Whitehead and Gilbert and Unseld. You have to understand that in my four years at U of L we only had 15 black athletes in all the sports. He has a lot to do with U of L's success today."
When Dromo went from being an assistant to being the boss, he didn't make any drastic changes from what Hickman had done for 23 years. He still liked the pressure defense. kids who dove for loose balls and coachable players. Still, there were some changes. Now he was in full control. "Assistant coaches make suggestions, head coaches make decisions," is how Dromo explains the change.
Unseld and Beard also made a difference for Dromo. They are two of the greatest basketball players in U of L's history. Both scored over a 1,000 points in three varsity seasons. Getting Unseld changed U of L basketball forever. Beard says: "When Dromo recruited Unseld it was the biggest coup of all-time."
Luring Unseld to U of L may have been one of the easiest things Dromo ever did. All it took was a little sweet talking. Not to Wes, but to his mother.
"She wanted Wes to attend U of L from the word go," Dromo says. "I remember that Wes went out to look over Kansas and I was worried he might sign there. I was nervous all weekend. When he arrived back in Louisville I waited as long as I could before I called his home. It was killing me not knowing what he was thinking."
"And when I called, Mrs. Unseld answered and said, 'Don't worry, coach, he's still ours.'"
Life was a lot easier with Unseld pulling down rebounds and Beard putting the ball in the basket. But Beard made it tough for Dromo during Beard's junior year. Dromo wanted Beard to move from forward to guard. Beard liked where he was. The two hit heads, but in the end, when Dromo explained the switch, it was the "best thing that happened to me." Beard says.
"He moved me to guard my junior year and I was a forward my sophomore year who had made some All-American teams," Beard says. "He told me I couldn't play pro basketball at forward - that guard was my only chance. I owe a lot to him."
"I remember when I told Butch that," Dromo add. "His eyes about popped out of his head."
Dromo's heart attack was a difficult adjustment for his 1970-71 team. When he went down in the ninth game of the season, chaos invaded Crawford Gym.
U of L went on to win 20 games that year because, Lawhon says, "What Dromo had drilled into us had carried over."
And what better way to ride off into the sunset? To leave a mark that another couldn't erase. To leave a mark that other's don't want to forget.