FanPost

Say it aint' so Rick

Say it aint so rick> Given the Rick Pitino story i have to repost my fanpost from the week of the louisville game.


.. .. .. ..SUCKING IS A CHOICE.. .. ..

 

Fanatic – a person whose extreme zeal goes beyond what is reasonable.

When it comes to being a sports fan, I’ve never considered it necessary to be rational or fair. It would really defeat the point. As far as I’m concerned, extremism as a fan of an athletic team is no vice. So as we head into BCS week my attention is focused on college basketball not football. Why? I am a lifelong Kentucky basketball fan and this Saturday Louisville and Rick Pitino come to town.

 Trying to explain Kentucky basketball fans to someone who has never encountered one is like trying to explain the Taliban to a Buddhist or Alabama Football to a Wellesley grad. There are three types of people in Kentucky, believers (UK fans), agnostics (those who don’t know and don’t care - we call them transplants) and Satan worshipers (University of Louisville fans).

In 1986, Louisville became National Champions for the second time. I say Louisville became National Champions in much the same way Al Gore congratulated George Bush on “becoming” president, as opposed to being elected president. I refuse to accept the notion that the University of Louisville was, is, or ever will be capable of winning a National Championship. Anyway, the state of Kentucky began putting up welcome signs that read, “Welcome to Kentucky, the Bluegrass State and home to the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals.” Had they placed those signs only at the foot of the bridge connecting Louisville with Indiana that would have been fine. But they had the audacity to put that sign at every single state line crossing from Belcher to Monkeys Eyebrow. My friends, that is like erecting a statue of the George Bush in Islamabad, and true blue Kentucky fans reacted accordingly, defacing or completely destroying as many of those signs as we could. Was it rationale? No. Was it legal? No. Was it the right thing to do? Allah says yes!

When Rick Pitino quit the Boston Celtics to coach to Louisville Cardinals many were confused. Isn't the University of Louisville the hated in-state rival of the Kentucky Wildcats, the team he took to the national championship? Why yes it is. Isn't it strange for a person to coach at two schools involved in such a long term, heated rivalry? It's unheard of. Why then would Pitino make such a move? Would Dean Smith coach Duke? Would Mike Krzyzewski coach North Carolina? Would Bear Bryant coach Auburn?  No, no, and hell no. But Rick Pitino would coach Louisville. What does that say about Rick Pitino? It says that like Professor Harold Hill, he is a fast talking opportunist, traveling the countryside like some nomadic salesman pitching his special Success is a Choice Tonic, guaranteed to make you a winner and feel like a loser.

How big was Pitino in Kentucky? Everyone tried to dress like him and he had his own Italian restaurant called Bravo Pitino (modest he ain't). There are precious few places in the world where the coach of an athletic team rules an entire state as a fiefdom the way Pitino ruled Kentucky in the 1990’s. Despite his assertions to the contrary, Pitino influenced Kentucky’s culture (in many ways for the better) and his opinions mattered to people. It seemed an unlikely match: a fast-talking, slick-haired, Armani suit wearing New Yorker ruling the roost of a bunch of slow-talking, tobacco-growing, red-eye gravy eating Kentuckians. But Pitino loved basketball as much as most Kentuckians and we loved him for it, despite his Noo Yawk Eye-talian ways.

It is easy for me to pinpoint when I began losing respect for Rick Pitino. It was during the 1996 presidential election. Earlier that year, Pitino had coached Kentucky to their 6th of 7 NCAA basketball championships. His popularity inside the state of Kentucky was unmatched. As longtime Kentucky play-by-play announcer Cawood Ledford once remarked, in six miraculous years, Pitino had taken the Kentucky basketball program “from ashes to stardust.”  It’s taken John Calipari 6 months.

As great as it was having Pitino as our coach, there was always something about his personality that made me uncomfortable, and that was his unwillingness to be straightforward with the public and his penchant for hogging the spotlight at times when he shouldn’t. Throughout his tenure as Kentucky’s coach, Pitino was always the subject of much rumor and speculation. Every year, Kentucky fans were forced to endure an endless parade of NBA teams beating a path to Lexington in an attempt to woo Pitino away from Kentucky. And every year Pitino would play his song and dance denial non-denial. The NBA teams would kiss his ring and offer him a bunch of money. Pitino would say he wasn’t interested, act as though he was, and dominate the news and discussion for most of the spring and summer. It was as though the entire state was his pawn and he enjoyed making everyone worry that he might leave some day. I believe the reason most Kentucky fans were so anxiety ridden over Pitino's antics was because deep down, most Kentucky fans never felt they could take Pitino at his word.

In 1997, like clockwork, Pitino was again rumored to leave Kentucky, this time to the Boston Celtics. This move made sense. Who could deny Rick Pitino the Boston Celtics? But again, it was the hog the limelight drip-by-drip method of Pitino that annoyed me. As the rumors were flying Pitino was out selling his latest book, Success is a Choice. During one stop on the book tour, Pitino was asked about the Celtics job and he said, “It’s not something I want to leave Kentucky for.” But his denials didn’t stop there. "I don't know what they [Boston Celtics] could offer me that would make sense for me to leave Kentucky," Pitino said of the Boston rumors. "…I'm very, very happy at Kentucky. I'll be coaching at Kentucky, and I don't plan on anything other than that. It's not that the Celtics wouldn't work, I really have no desire to leave Kentucky.''

At the time he said that, Pitino was involved in recruiting the next crop of freshman players. One of those players was Michael Bradley who, after signing with Kentucky, said, “Being from Massachusetts and always hearing how Pitino's headed to the Celtics, I asked him about that during my recruiting trip. He told me that he had coached in the pros and that he was done with that. That it was too hectic. He told me that he wanted to coach college basketball until he was 50 years old. Since he's only 44 now, that means he'll be at Kentucky at least until I graduate.” Days later, Pitino was gone, but Bradley had already committed to Kentucky. "Someday when I do leave [Kentucky]," Pitino said days before leaving the Bluegrass State, "we'll have a press conference and say goodbye to everybody. But until then, all this fuel for speculation is really silly on anyone's part.'' And that is the Pitino modus operandi. Do everything he can to fuel the speculation while at the same time denying it, and then blame others for speculating.

Pitino’s Spin machine rivals anything I’ve ever seen, except, perhaps, John Calipari. It’s a non-stop, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year operation designed at keeping the name of Rick Pitino on the lips of as many people as possible. He has a blindly loyal cadre of friends and supporters who defend his every action and his every lie by hitting the airwaves and talking with reporters. Even good journalists like the Lexington Herald’s John Clay find themselves attempting to explain away Pitino’s inability to shoot straight. "Of course," Clay wrote years ago, "there is one thing we do remember from those eight years of Ricky P. on a day-to-day basis. Pitino is fully capable of saying one thing, and then doing another. It's not that he deals in mistruths, necessarily, it's just that he is very adept at changing his mind. It comes easily for him. All of this might change tomorrow."

Adept at changing his mind? Like Hillary Clinton is adept at forgetting every corrupt thing she’s ever done? How about acknowledging that Pitino is adept at lying. The lengths to which people will go to explain away Pitino’s untruthfulness, as though he just can’t help himself, stun me. For Pitino, lying - like success - is a choice. People need to stop making excuse for this guy and call it like it is. He is a publicity hound who will flat out lie to further his goal of self-promotion. And, like the Clintons he so admired, he gets away with it…for now.

So, as far as this UK fan is concerned, Louisville can keep Rick Pitino. I'm sure they’ll continue to win a lot of games. They may even win a championship. They may even beat Kentucky. I certainly expect he will have a solid game plan up his sleeve to go with the insane slut under his dining room table, but for the University of Louisville Rick Pitino has come at a price. Louisville basketball is forced to take a back seat to Pitino. That's just the way he operates. He thinks he is bigger than the program. And that is why Pitino, unlike almost any other person in sports, has no problem changing sides. The one thing I know for sure is that while Pitino is on CBS this Saturday, an undeserved amount of time will be spent on the latest off-court maneuvers of Slick Pitino instead of focusing on the game and the kids who play it. That's usually the way he likes it and it sucks. And for Rick Pitino, sucking is a choice.


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