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Pride led Pitino to make wrong decision again

Vicky Graff Photo

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

Rick Pitino is an interesting paradox. So many twists and turns in his coaching career. It seems that he has made decisions along the way that – if done differently – would have potentially created so many different outcomes than where he is today.

He came to the University of Kentucky as head basketball coach in 1989.  After his National Championship run in 1996 he had this to say about his reason for coming to UK as head coach. ” I came to Kentucky for a specific reason; to try to build a program in shambles to the championship level, and we’ve accomplished that”.  In April 1997 he said “I’ll be back at my Ol’ Kentucky Home trying to win another championship. There’s no monetary amount that can get me to leave.”

Two weeks later in early May 1997 he had accepted the head coaching position with the Boston Celtics for $70 million dollars over 10 years. His reasoning for taking the job was “There’s a challenge there I wanted to take. It’s the lure of the Boston Celtics. It’s magical”. About the Celtics job he said ” If we’re successful, I will grow old with the Boston Celtics. If we lose, I’ll just grow old.”

By 2001 Rick had resigned as head coach for the Boston Celtics. His overall record was 102-146 over his 3 1/2 year career at Boston.

In seeking out new opportunities he was approached by the University of Michigan to take its head coaching vacancy. He was also approached by Tom Jurich, Athletic Director for the University of Louisville. Rick at the time said he hesitated to take the U of L job because of a potential backlash from UK fans “who felt jilted ” that he would consider coaching at the arch rival of UK. His wife, Joanne, convinced him to take the Louisville job to get back to Kentucky, a state that he loved. As they say, the rest is history.

What makes this history so interesting is the “what ifs” that could have occurred if Rick’s history had taken a different turn.

If Rick swallows his pride – is content with his success at UK – and doesn’t leave for the Boston job in 1997 and Tubby Smith stays at Georgia does UK win the National Title in 1998? How many more championships does UK win with Rick Pitino as coach at UK?

If Rick had taken the Michigan job instead of the Louisville position does Michigan then win the National Title in 2013 instead of Louisville?

By staying in Kentucky where Rick’s career had been relatively scandal free does he avoid the extramarital affair and extortion fiasco in Louisville that occurred with Karen Sypher in 2003? Or the current nightmare that he is living due to the mismanagement of the Louisville basketball program by his Director of Operations, Andre McGee?

But here he sits – on June 15, 2017 – at a press conference in Louisville to discuss the judgement handed down by the NCAA. Defiantly shaking his fist in the face of the NCAA Infractions Committee while he claims unfair treatment and “over the top” punishment for his mismanagement of the U of L Basketball program.

So many years ago he stood at a crossroads – stay at UK and be the King of College Basketball or go for it all and take a grab at the brass ring that was the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately – like his behavior at the press conference –  pride made him make the wrong decision then and the wrong decision now.

10 comments

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  1. Cats79

    Yeah Rick has made mistakes in his life but who doesn’t. Jeeze, let it go what happen 20 years ago. He brought our program back from the ashes and some people don’t appreciate it just because he left Kentucky. If you going have a thorn on your side because Rick left after all these years there’s something wrong. GET OVER IT AND ENJOY WHAT WE GOT!!!!!

    1. KingGhidora

      Pitino might have been the coach but the BBN would have lived on with him or without him. He shouldn’t get credit for fixing what wasn’t really broken. The NCAA unfairly hammered UK. UK was doing great just before that happened. Sutton was putting together a team with talent that would have rivaled one of Cal’s best teams. I don’t think the NCAA wanted that to happen. The envelope was a sham and UK wasn’t responsible for what Manuel did or didn’t do.

      At any rate UK would have come back from the scandal no matter what. UK has too much going for in the way of tradition. Ohio St. didn’t buckle under their scandal did they? UK wouldn’t have either. They would have come back no matter what. It’s wrong to give Pitino the credit. A better choice would be to say the UK fans drove the comeback because they supported the team through thick and thin. Other coaches did well with players form KY in those days. Vanderbilt under C.M. did a great job with KY players. The fact Rick did it is not that special. He did recruit Mashburn. But to think no great talent would have chosen to come to UK knowing the would be the star in the biggest program in the country. It was going to happen.

      Pitino likes to blow his own horn on this. He made the comment about how he rebuilt the team as shown in this article. I didn’t see him score a single point. Would the team have come back so quickly and did so well without Rick? We’ll never know. It’s not like he was the only good coach on the planet. The stars lined up for him to be UK’s coach but UK could have hired a number of talented coaches IMO. The amount they could pay a coach would have had something to do with that.

      Rick has proven his lack of integrity many times since he left UK. He did it by leaving UK actually. Saying you’re staying then immediately leaving shows a lack of integrity. He used UK to drive up his salary. I think he pruposely stuck UK with Smith too. I’ve heard it said he lobbied for Smith to be coach because of UK’s so called racist reputation. UK should have fought that image problem long before hiring Smith. It wasn’t true and hiring a black coach wasn’t proof anyway. Historical evidence is there. When UK first got the label of racist they weren’t allowed to enroll blacks by state law. But the press blamed Rupp. I’ve seen the articles. He was German and shared a name with Hitler.

      Pitino still hasn’t taken responsiblity for the mess at Louisville. Every coach gets judged by the same standard. You either keep control of the program or you don’t. He got off easy IMO. If he didn’t know about the parties he should have. And given the climate at UL I’d say there’s a good chance many knew. They hired Petrino knowing he was a dirt bag.

      Rick should take it like a man but he acts like a spoiled kid still. I don’t think he will ever grow up.

  2. UKMANAGER

    Pitino is a pompous Arrogant jerk I was around him at U.K. because I
    had worked for Bill Keightley in school many
    Years before.Coach Pitino was a jerk then and remains one today.His troubles are of
    His own making It is time for him to go Louisville needs to pull the plug and start over

  3. Cats79

    UKMANGER and to whom ever there’s no room calling people names it’s best keep it to yourself even this blog is open to your opinion. I’m sure Larry likes to keep it clean.

    1. UKMANAGER

      Pitino has been called a lot worse than jerk
      Before I assure you

  4. TheProfessor

    The citing of Pitino’s pride is an interesting take.

    Pride is an antonym for shame!!!!

  5. UKMANAGER

    Pitino went to SEC Meeting in Destin Florida and asked
    AD Larry Ivy to fire Tubby Smith if Pitino gave him $1Million Larry told Rick to go screw
    Himself that is kind of person Pitino is

  6. Cats79

    King it was funny back when Rick was UK coach everybody jump to his bandwagon because he did put our program back on the map. You can say bad things now but back then it was different story.He put together that 96 team which I think ranks top 5 all time UK team. Had Anderson hadn’t got hurt you know it could have been back to back title. So don’t tell me Rick don’t deserve credit he put our basketball back on the map. I’m sick and tired of own fans is bashing him because he left UK and coaching at Louisville. The stuff he has done hasn’t got anything with UK.

  7. Norman Einstein

    Amen

  8. UKFMLY

    He deserved credit then and condemnation now. The mess little brother is in is of his own creation either by actions or a lack there of. Tired of hearing UK fans beat the Pitino drum. His time here is long past and his recent actions are a disgrace. Love him hate him neither bothers me but the continual praise is in my opinion ridiculous.

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