Vaught’s note: Maybe my memory has faded, but I can’t remember knowing that Rick Pitino said yes to Michigan back in 2001 and then changed his mind to take the Louisville job. But that’s what he said at the Final Four Sunday when asked about the contact he had with Michigan back in 2001 after he left the Boston Celtics. I thought his answer was one you might enjoy, especially since he basically says it was his wife who convinced him to take the Louisville job.
Question: You mentioned that you had some contact with Michigan. Can you take us through that decision making process from 2001. Is it a little bit ironic you’re facing them tomorrow night for a chance to win another title?
COACH PITINO: It was kind of a funny story because I agreed to be the Michigan coach. I lived in Boston right on Com Avenue. We visited Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. My wife doesn’t like Las Vegas. We had young children at the time. She said, Look, if we were all ‘let’s go,’ we have young kids. I just don’t want to go out west. I don’t want to go to a different time zone. I want to stay near our family. It wasn’t Las Vegas as a town, it was the fact that it was west of the Mississippi. I’ll go to any job, but want to stay closer to home.
So I took the Michigan job. That morning I agreed. I forget what the name was, I think it was ‘Outright,’ which when I called the Michigan AD, he didn’t want me to use my real name to get through to him. My wife came up and, as I said, I’m on the third floor, putting together all the things together with the Michigan contract.
She had a book. There was an expression in the book that, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a Lamb. My wife doesn’t swear. She didn’t want to go to Michigan because I’ve never visited there, I didn’t know anybody there. She wanted to go back to Kentucky where she saw the family so happy for eight years.
I said to her, You don’t understand, the Kentucky coach can’t coach at Louisville. You’re just not getting it. She said, It’s one game every year, and every other year you have to visit. What’s the big deal?
I said, It’s a big deal. We don’t want to do that. We’ll be miserable. You don’t want to put yourself in that situation.
She said, You know what, that line you’re always using, I’d rather live one day as a lion than a thousand as a lamb, you’re an F ing Lamb, then walked downstair.
I said, Think about it. There’s half a million Kentucky fans in our town. It’s not like living in Lexington where if you wear red, you get shot. It doesn’t work that way.
She said, I don’t care, your family is going to be happy. Now I have to call the AD. It’s 12:00. He had a thing between 12:00 and 1:30. I think it was squash or racquetball, where he can never be disturbed unless it’s a matter of life and death. His assistant said, Is it a matter of life and death?
I said, No, it’s really, really important. It’s a matter of life and death, because I changed my mind.
I’m sorry, I can’t put him through to you, do you want his voice mail?
So now I’m leaving this long voice mail. I rambled on saying it’s one of the greatest jobs in the world, but I have to go back home where my family grew up, my children grew up. I gave a long winded story. Never till the NIT when I got a chance to speak to him in person about it. I went to Louisville. It was the right move not necessarily for me. But it was the right move for my family.