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ESPN plays “what if?” on Rick Pitino staying at Kentucky

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ESPN’s recent gaffe with Pitino’s job title begs the question, “what would happen if he stayed?”

NCAA Basketball: Louisville at Kentucky Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN was broadcasting a high school basketball game that featured high school star and highly-touted recruit Romeo Langford last Thursday, and during the game Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino was caught on camera. They threw a nameline up there, but accidentally put his title as “Kentucky Head Coach.”

Well, this funny little gaffe has led Eamonn Brennan of ESPN to play the “what if?” game with Pitino’s career.

So, what if Pitino had stayed at Kentucky?

Well, according to Brennan, these things would be different: Pitino would have a lot more wins, (obviously), Tubby Smith’s career would have been far different and the Billy Gillispie era wouldn’t have existed (wouldn’t that be nice).

But there’s a lot more to it than that, because of the coach that took Gillispie’s place.

If Rick Pitino stayed at Kentucky, and succeeded, John Calipari wouldn’t have revolutionized college basketball. If Calipari hadn’t taken the reigns of one of college basketball’s most successful and marketable programs, the one-and-done approach to recruiting would still be laughed at and criticized, we wouldn’t be in “the year of the freshman,” and some of the NBA’s biggest and brightest stars (Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins) could have ended up on entirely different trajectories in their careers.

And there’s even more than that, according to Brennan. Pitino’s coaching tree stems out to guys like Mick Cronin, who made the Cincinnati Bearcats a respectable program, and Andy Enfield, who went on to assemble a Cinderella-story Florida Gulf Coast team.

Then there’s also the thought of where the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry would be without Pitino on the other side. Would these two teams hate each other quite as much? Maybe.

But there’s one thing Brennan didn’t address: would Pitino still be wrapped up in scandals, even if he’d stayed at Kentucky? If the answer to that is yes, then I’m happy he’s gone. He can have his 2013 title and that “humility” he gained if it comes at the price of Kentucky not being a corrupt mess. He pulled Kentucky out of corruption, would’ve been a shame if he put them right back in it.

All-in-all, the thought of Pitino still being at Kentucky makes me think the fabric of the universe is tearing apart. That’s not something I can ponder.

You can read the rest of Brennan’s article here. To be fair, it’s a pretty good read.