Humbler Pitino appreciates current success
TribLIVE Sports Videos
ATLANTA — It's good to be Rick Pitino these days.
Top-seeded Louisville is playing for the national championship, giving Pitino a chance to be the first coach to win titles at two different schools. His son, Richard, is the new Minnesota coach. One of his horses has a spot in the Kentucky Derby after coming from behind to win the Santa Anita Derby.
Oh, and Monday morning, the Hall of Fame will make it official, announcing Pitino as one of its newest inductees.
“You take it in stride,” he said Sunday. “I try not to ever get too low. I fight adversity as hard as I can fight it, not get too low. When good things happen, I don't really embrace it. I just say it's a lucky day.”
The Cardinals (34-5) play fourth-seeded Michigan (31-7) on Monday night, with Louisville an early 4 1⁄2-point favorite.
Pitino has come a long way from the brash coach who led Kentucky to the national title in 1996. A long way, even, from the coach whose buttoned-down reputation was left in tatters following an extortion case four years ago that exposed the messy details of his private life. He's learned humility late in the game, and he — and his players — are all the better for it.
“If I had one regret in life, it wouldn't be what you think,” Pitino said. “It's that I wasn't more humble at an earlier age.”
The comeuppance began in Boston.
Pitino was the hottest commodity in college coaching when he went to the Celtics following that '96 title and another trip to the championship game the next year. But assembling a team in college is different than doing it in the NBA, and Pitino was 102-146 in three-plus seasons.
He returned to the college ranks, taking the Louisville job in the spring of 2001. Six months later, his brother-in-law and best friend died in the Sept. 11 attacks, a loss that cut almost as deeply as the death of his infant son 14 years earlier.
And in 2009, he was forced to admit he'd had a sexual encounter with a woman who later tried to extort millions from him.
But the pain and humiliation ultimately served a greater purpose.
“For the first time in my life, I thought about maybe packing it in and doing something else three years ago,” Pitino said earlier in the tournament. “I said, ‘You know what, I'm not going to do that. I'm going coach as long as I can coach, but I'm going to make one big change. We're going to work just as hard as we've ever worked, if not more, but we're going to have a blast doing it.'
“It's worked very well.”
It's no coincidence that Pitino's new outlook has translated into one of the best runs of his career. The Cardinals have won 30 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, reaching the Final Four each year. The 34 wins this season are a school record, and the 15-game winning streak is the longest in a decade.
Pitino insists the personal accolades mean little. It may have taken a while, but he's learned the best things in his life and career are shared.
“Everything we do is about the team, about the family,” Pitino said. “I want to win because I'm a part of the team.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police officer fatally shot in New Florence; suspect at-large
- At-home schooling on snow days far from reality
- Volunteers get West Deer church’s train display back on track
- Small Business Saturday a boon to Alle-Kiski Valley merchants
- New Christmas decorations make Leechburg shine a little brighter
- Saxonburg machine shop 3 generations strong
- Thomas Jefferson uses defense, running game to capture WPIAL title
- WPIAL Class AAA notes: Title games draw 16,500 to Heinz Field
- Police officer killed in Colorado Spring clinic rampage a co-pastor, figure skater
- Indiana Twp. liver transplant recipient, 2, takes steps toward normal life
- Colorado clinic shooting suspect talked of baby parts, police say