Earlier today Rick Pitino held a press conference in which he chose to remind America that he was, in fact, Rick Pitino. This press conference lasted 24:37 seconds, and I sat through every bit of it.
Okay, I’m lying. But I tried to watch all of it. And you’ve got to credit me for that, no?
In the 10 minutes or so that I could stomach I did figure out one key thing, and that’s this: Rick Pitino is a younger, Italian version of legendary football coach Bobby Bowden.
Regardless of the opponent, Bobby Bowden would identify some characteristic and talk about how it was keeping him up at night. Sure, FSU might be 37 point favorites against Georgia Southern, but dadgummit if Southern didn’t have the best little receiver he’d seen since Miami’s Michael Irvin. Pitino, on the other hand, simply stands in front of a podium every single year, reads the name of his first round opponent, and declares them to be the best first round opponent he’s ever faced. This year, that’s Davidson.
Considering that Louisville has been bounced in the first round in two straight years, Louisville fans hope that he’s kidding.
The other thing Bowden would do is answer questions with a completely unrelated story. Of course Bowden’s tales typically had to do with his wife, his time at Howard, or something some great coach had taught him. Pitino doesn’t waste time with any of that. With Pitino, every story involves Pitino and New York City.
And herein lies the problem. When Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced that they were bolting the Big East in favor of the ACC, Pitino freaked. He lashed out. At the ACC. At the Big East. Sure, the optimist in me thinks that Rick Pitino is just upset that something he loves (the Big East) is being downgraded. But the pessimist in me thinks that Pitino is becoming more worried about his own legacy than he is about his teams. Having two traditional power leave means that less attention will be focused on Louisville.
Pitino has been at Louisville for 10 years. They’ve made 1 Final Four. The man he replaced (Denny Crum) was at Louisville for 31 years. Crum made 7 Final Fours and won 2 Titles. I know that Rick Pitino is just being the veteran tale-spinner when he stands in front of reporters and talks ad nauseam. And I know that every coach talks about losing to inferior opponents. But considering his propensity for casting the light on himself, and considering his record at Louisville compared to his record at Kentucky, at some point it has to be okay for people to wonder if Pitino is so worried about winning for his own good that he spends these press conferences trying to spin the pre-told story of his failures.
I know that Florida State fans can relate to this story. No one likes it. No one enjoys seeing a great coach reduced to a caricature.
So let’s hope that’s not happening. Let’s hope that Pitino just really enjoys talking about himself, and behind the scenes he’s already figured out the keys to thrashing Davidson (no offense, wildcats).