21years later, Pitino and Coach K meet again
INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino are finally doing an encore.
For the first time since their teams played perhaps the greatest game in the history of March Madness, Krzyzewski and Pitino will meet in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday when top-seeded Louisville faces Duke. In the regional finals, no less.
Krzyzewski and Pitino are forever linked by that one game in Philadelphia, immortalized by Christian Laettner's improbable shot.
“It's one of those moments in time that helped define our sport,” Krzyzewski said Saturday.
Krzyzewski and Pitino have five NCAA titles and 1,618 victories between them. Yet for all of their success, and for as good a friends as they are, Krzyzewski and Pitino rarely play each other.
When Louisville (32-5) and Duke (30-5) played in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November — Duke won — it was the first time Krzyzewski and Pitino had played each other since '92. Sunday's game will be just their third meeting.
“That's why we got them in the conference. Got to start doing this a little bit more,” Krzyzewski joked, referring to Louisville's upcoming move to the ACC.
But almost nothing could top that first meeting between them.
The Blue Devils, led by Laettner and Grant Hill, were defending national champions in 1992. Kentucky was on the rise again after two years on probation. When they met in the old Spectrum for the East Region finals, it was a showdown of the 1 and 2 seeds, a game worthy of a national championship.
After coming from 10 down in regulation, Kentucky appeared to have the game won when Sean Woods made a running bank shot in the lane with 2.5 seconds left in overtime. Duke called a timeout, and gave the ball to Grant Hill to inbound.
The Wildcats knew the ball was going to Laettner. But without Jamal Mashburn —he'd fouled out — Pitino pulled John Pelphrey and Deron Feldhaus aside and warned them not to foul.
“I said, ‘Whatever you do, don't foul him. He hasn't missed a shot,' ” Pitino recalled. “I shouldn't have done that. That was the mistake I made. I should have said, ‘Whatever you do, bat down the ball. I don't care what the contact is, go for the basketball.'
“You saw my guys freeze a little bit.”
Hill threw a strike from the far baseline and found Laettner at the foul line with his back to the basket. Laettner faked right, spun to his left and swished a 15-footer as the buzzer sounded.
Duke would go on to win its second straight title, beating Michigan in the final.