Skip to content

Rick Pitino caps ‘unbelievable week’ with a national title

Apr 9, 2013, 3:50 AM EDT

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. Illinois declares home floor fit for play following flooding issue

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:53 PM EDT

    Twitter/IlliniHoops Twitter/IlliniHoops

    Quick action by construction workers ensured that it was declared ready for play two days after being flooded.

  2. Officiating controversy results in multiple suspensions

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT

    Chris Collins, Bo Boroski Chris Collins, Bo Boroski

    Some officials are in hot water after compromising a system used by 20 different Division I conferences.

  3. Canadian forward/center verbally commits to Saint Louis

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:58 PM EDT

    crews AP

    Saint Louis adds more depth to its front court with this verbal commitment.

  4. Transfer center will sit out upcoming season at Florida

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:26 PM EDT

    John Egbunu, Austin Nichols, David Pellom John Egbunu, Austin Nichols, David Pellom

    John Egbunu was an American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team selection at USF last season.

  5. VCU’s Treveon Graham: From lightly recruited to leader of Havoc, the Atlantic 10 favorites

    Oct 30, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Preseason Atlantic 10 Player of the Year is looking to lead VCU deep into March.

  6. Canisius to be without two forwards due to ankle injury, suspension

    Oct 30, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Jim Baron Jim Baron

    The Golden Griffins have to account for the loss of four starters from last season’s 21-win team.

  7. Kentucky, Xavier among those participating in #Layup4Lauren challenge (VIDEOS)

    Oct 30, 2014, 3:56 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 4.03.04 PM

    Feel free to take this as my challenge to you all.

  8. Top 25 Countdown: No. 7 North Carolina Tar Heels

    Oct 30, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    marcus paige Getty Images

    North Carolina should be a national title contender, but they do have some question marks.

  9. Dayton’s Elite 8 run, Archie Miller’s decision to stay help continue Atlantic 10’s success

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Dayton head coach Archie Miller spurned high-major programs to remain at Atlantic 10. He’s not the only one in the league happy with where they are.

  10. Assigned Reading: Devonta Pollard opens up about the kidnapping he was involved in

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT

    NIT Northeastern Alabama AP

    Pollard is looking to reignite his career at Houston this season.

  11. 2014-2015 Season Preview: Treveon Graham, VCU enter as favorites in the Atlantic 10

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Atlantic 10 is out to gain respect again this season from the rest of the college basketball world, a year after the league saw a record six teams selected for the NCAA tournament with one team reaching the Elite 8.

  12. 2014-15 Season Preview: Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky lead a strong crop of big men

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

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

    The list of big men dominating college basketball this season is solid.

  13. Former Georgia Tech head coach recuses self from Syracuse’s NCAA hearing

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    bobby-cremins AP

    Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.

  14. Transfer guard dismissed from Minnesota program

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT

    Zach Lofton, Zach Lofton,

    Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.

  15. Long Beach State, head coach Dan Monson agree to contract extension

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT

    Dan Monson AP

    Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.

  16. Buffalo-area programs to wear special jerseys for Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT

    Big 4 Basketball Classic Big 4 Basketball Classic

    Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.

  17. ACC releases its preseason media poll, all-conference team

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    AP AP

    North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.