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Does Derrick Caracter = Rodrick Rhodes?

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Do y'all remember all the hoopla at Kentucky when Rick Pitino signed Rodrick Rhodes, then the #2 ranked and consensus top 5 player in the nation coming out of high school?  I certainly do.

Here in my hands is a book called "Full Court Pressure," a book written by Rick Pitino and Dick Weiss (yes, that Dick Weiss) in 1992 which I am sure many of you have read.  This book is a first edition hardback given to me as a gift for Christmas, or my birthday, or something.  In it was a chapter called "All Rhodes Lead To Kentucky," which encapsulates the ups and downs of recruiting a young man bound and determined to get to the NBA as soon as possible.

As I was reading some articles today about a press conference yesterday by Pitino where Caracter's situation was discussed, and this one by Rick Bozich of the Courier-Journal compared Rhodes and Caracter's respective careers under Rick Pitino.  It is an interesting article.  And I think he has a point.

But the question becomes this -- as much as a nuisance as Caracter has been, what damage will be done to the image of Rick Pitino by being seen as running off a second player?  Make no mistake, Pitino's press conference left little doubt that is exactly what he was doing, and I am not criticizing him for doing it.  Caracter has been a serious distraction to the team, and I certainly applauded when Smith ran off Adam Chiles and Rashaad Carruth.  Carruth had become a coach's nightmare, and Chiles was certainly not good for team chemistry if the reports I heard were true.  But in the end, in Smith's own words, everything that could be done to save them had been done:

Smith said Kentucky tried traditional approaches: Withdrawing privileges such as game tickets or dorm space, having psychological testing and professional counseling. "That's pretty much the last straw," he says, "because by that time you've probably exhausted everything else that you have at your disposal. Whatever you have to do to try to change that behavior. When that doesn't work, you have to move on."
But Smith got hammered in some circles for doing that, and I have a feeling some of that same criticism, fair or unfair,is coming Pitino's way if he actually follows through with this, which, by the way, is far from certain.  Remember Pitino's "indefinite suspension" of Caracter this year that lasted, what, seven days?

I hope for the sake of Caracter and Pitino that both parties get this right.  Caracter has been very unfair to Pitino and Louisville with his bizarre, childish antics.  But with that said, he is still a college age kid and this decision is very important to his life.  He has talent, but no NBA team is going to ignore the fact that he is a serious discipline problem.  He also has not done nearly enough to prove he is worthy of being in the Association.

But with all that said, I have to wonder -- how much responsibility does a coach have when they recruit a kid with a known problem to school?  Caracter's reputation was widely recognized in high school, and many schools backed off their recruitment of him for just that reason.  That is where he and Rhodes diverge -- Rhodes was thought of as a dynamic personality, but never a discipline problem coming out of high school.  Pitino was apparently confident that he could turn Caracter around, and to some extent, he has.  My point here, though, is that there have been arguably many times when a truly principled person could have justified dismissing Caracter.  Many coaches have dismissed their better players before or during the season when their problems turned out to be intractable (see Felton, Dennis).  Instead, Pitino played mind games with Caracter for 2 years and kept him for his basketball skill.  Now, after the season and with a pair of highly touted big men coming in as possible replacements but without the baggage, he apparently wants to cast him adrift -- thanks for the memories!

So how will this affect Pitino's national image?  If Bozich is any indication, not at all, at least in the local media.  But quite frankly, nobody who has watched Pitino over the years is completely convinced the last chaper in this story has been written -- all we have to do is look at the Earl Clark on-again, off-again declaration and Pitino's involvement to see that.  But in the end, I do think it is fair and necessary for Pitino to consider the best interests of his team as well as the best interests of Caracter.  Is he doing that?  We'll have to wait and see until the curtain comes down on the final act of this play.