Louisville head coach Rick Pitino has had his greatest success as a college coach, despite two different stints in the NBA. He’s the first coach in NCAA history to take three teams to the Final Four. He captured a national title for Kentucky in 1996. After the next year he took another shot at the NBA, accepting the head coaching job for the Boston Celtics.
“I think I do regret leaving Kentucky because I took over a team with 15 wins banking everything on the Tim Duncan lottery, and once we didn’t get Tim Duncan I realized that leaving Kentucky was not a good move,” said Pitino.
In 1997, Duncan was taken by the San Antonio Spurs. The Celtics took Chauncey Billups with the third overall pick, followed by Ron Mercer three picks later.
Pitino was 102-146 in four years with the Celtics. He was 219-50 in eight seasons at Kentucky. Since joining the Cardinals in 2001, Pitino is 296-111. The current Louisville coach was more successful in his first NBA job, coaching the New York Knicks from 1987-1989.
“I loved going to the Knicks because we won the Atlantic Division championship,” he said. “We went from winning 21 games or 19 games to winning 52 games in a short period of time. I loved coaching Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley and all those guys.”
Recently, Pitino was announced as a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.