Skip to content

Rick Pitino caps ‘unbelievable week’ with a national title

Apr 9, 2013, 3:50 AM EST

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

ATLANTA — Think about where Rick Pitino was four years ago, as Karen Sypher dragged him through what was likely the most embarrassing scandal in the history of college athletics.

Then think about where he was just two years later, as he lost his second straight opening round NCAA tournament game while watching arch-nemesis John Calipari lead arch-rival Kentucky to the Final Four. Think about where he was after last year’s Final Four, when he not only lost to those Wildcats in New Orleans, but he had to watch them win the National Title afterwards while everyone proclaimed Kentucky to be the next college basketball dynasty.

There were a lot of people that didn’t think that Pitino would still be coaching right now, and yet there he was on Monday night, cutting down the nets after his Cardinals won him his second national title in a thriller over Michigan, 82-76.

It wasn’t just the ring that Pitino won, however.

MORE: Photos from Monday night

It was his horse that won the Santa Anita Derby and qualified for the Kentucky Derby. It was his son, Richard, getting hired to be the next head coach at the University of Minnesota. It was the announced that he had been elected for induction into the Naismith Hall of Fame. And all of that happened as he became the first coach to win a championship at two different schools.

“It’s been the most unbelievable week that a guy can go through in sport,” the younger Pitino said after the game. “I’m really proud.”

But here’s the thing about Pitino: he did everything that he could to share the credit for this title with those around him. Somewhere deep down, there’s an ego that needs to be stroked, but that wasn’t happening on this night. When asked what it means to win a title and get named to the Hall of Fame in the same day, Pitino said “players put coaches in the Hall of Fame.” When asked about the emotions that with hearing that final buzzer sound, Pitino told a long and rambling — and heart felt — story about how he gave the jersey he received from the Hall of Fame to his sister-in-law, who lost her husband and her brother within a five-month span and who overcame alcoholism to raise three kids.

I believe it.

I don’t think this is an act.

MORE: Now this was a game for the ages

You can see it in the way that he interacts with his players. How long would Russ Smith have lasted on the Louisville roster if this was six or seven years ago? But Smith not only has thrived under Pitino, he became an all-american after he actually wanted to leave the program and now the two have the most charmingly dysfunctional relationship between a coach and a player in the country. Pitino can needle him about not listening to him at the same time that he praises Smith for going shirtless and painting his chest to women’s soccer games.

Pitino cares. He really, truly cares about his players, and that may be the reason that he is able to get so much out of them. It’s not that difficult to leave it all on the floor for a coach that you believe is family.

“It feels amazing to get this win for him,” Peyton Siva said. “Playing for a great guy, not just from coaching, just a great father figure.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. You make the call: Did D’Angelo Harrison commit an offensive foul, or did Gary Bell flop? (VIDEO)

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:37 PM EST

    AP AP

    What do you think? Watch the play and let us know in the comment section.

  2. Wisconsin wins 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis with 69-56 win over Oklahoma

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:34 PM EST

    AP AP

    The Badgers were led by Frank Kaminsky with 17 points; 13 of which came in the second half.

  3. 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field announced

    Nov 28, 2014, 5:58 PM EST

    AP AP

    Here are the teams competing in the top early-season tournament.

  4. WATCH LIVE: Rutgers-Vanderbilt and La Salle-Virginia in the Barclays Classic on NBC Sports Network

    Nov 28, 2014, 5:55 PM EST

    nbcsports1 (1)

    The 2014 Barclays Center Classic will air a doubleheader on Friday night, live on NBC Sports Network. Coverage on NBCSN begins at 7 p.m. EST

  5. Butler leaves the the Bahamas with two key wins

    Nov 28, 2014, 4:54 PM EST

    AP AP

    Butler, picked seventh in the Big East, left the Battle 4 Atlantis with a pair of important victories.

  6. No. 11 Kansas still working to establish offensive chemistry

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:55 PM EST

    Perry Ellis, Josh Richardson Perry Ellis, Josh Richardson

    Kansas scored 82 points in their win over Tennessee but they also committed 16 turnovers as they continue to figure each other out offensively.

  7. Florida State will be without two key guards Friday night

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:07 PM EST

    Aaron Thomas Aaron Thomas

    Aaron Thomas and Devon Bookert both suffered injuries last weekend that have kept them sidelined.

  8. Right wrist injury to sideline Maryland senior wing four weeks

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:25 AM EST

    Dez Wells, Hugo Naurais Dez Wells, Hugo Naurais

    Dez Wells made just five of his 20 field goal attempts against Iowa State. This injury may be the reason why.

  9. Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Oklahoma, No. 2 Wisconsin meet for Battle 4 Atlantis title

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:24 AM EST

    Buddy Hield, Zeek Woodley AP

    Providence better focus on Yale and not get caught looking forward to their game at No. 1 Kentucky on Sunday.

  10. Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Wisconsin remains undefeated, No. 5 North Carolina bounces back

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:01 AM EST

    Jabril Trawick, Duje Dukan Jabril Trawick, Duje Dukan

    North Carolina did a better job on the boards while also forcing 23 turnovers in their win over UCLA.

  11. Penn State unveils new uniforms for next two games

    Nov 27, 2014, 9:53 PM EST

    Patrick Chambers AP

    Penn State will return to the school’s original colors- black and pink- for their next two games.

  12. Bronson Koenig, Duje Dukan step forward in No. 2 Wisconsin’s win over Georgetown

    Nov 27, 2014, 6:08 PM EST

    Duje Dukan AP

    Koenig and Dukan combined to score 18 points in the second half for the second-ranked Badgers.

  13. Richmond loses reserve guard to left foot injury

    Nov 27, 2014, 5:24 PM EST

    Chris Mooney Chris Mooney

    Khwan Fore’s averaging 7.5 minutes per game in two appearances this season.

  14. Report: Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins broke his jaw

    Nov 27, 2014, 12:56 PM EST

    St Joseph's v Gonzaga St Joseph's v Gonzaga

    Perkins was kicked in the face by a Georgia player.

  15. Pregame Shootaround: Enjoy your Turkey Day!

    Nov 27, 2014, 11:19 AM EST

    Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo) Frank Kaminsky (AP Photo)

    It’s not just football that’s on today.

  16. St. John’s seniors say they ‘grew up’ against Minnesota, but have they?

    Nov 27, 2014, 3:14 AM EST

    D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo) D'Angelo Harrison (AP Photo)

    A lot is riding on this season for St. John’s. Can they consistently be the ‘grown up’ team they claimed to be on Wednesday night?