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What was Rick Pitino Really Saying?

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Even in his own deep doo-doo, he can't resist dragging in his old employer and his arch nemesis

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I've been mostly placid about Rick Pitino's comments the other day - the ones in which he said, in effect, "we're not Kentucky, we don't need to recruit 'that way.' "

I've said, mostly, that it sounds different when you hear it than when you read it. He was making a case for the kinds of players he recruits - non-blue-chippers who come to Louisville to stay for four years and marinate in the wholesome Cardinal environment. And when he said "Kentucky," he was really saying all those schools (including, presumably, Duke, the sanctified chapel on the hill) that populate their teams with one-and-dones.

But my wife Joie pointed out the thin veneer covering what he was "really saying." (I guess it takes a UK alum with blue in her blood from birth, rather than mine that was acquired by transfusion).

Here are her points:

  • He's implying that Kentucky does resort to exactly those practices Louisville has been accused of. (Some would say it's more than an implication, it's a flat-out accusation.)
  • He's saying that the only way to get the best high school players to join your program is by offering them strippers and sex.
  • He's suggesting that the high school phenoms that come to Kentucky are somehow of lower moral fiber than those innocent players-in-development, just looking for a chance to bask in the Pitino aura, that Louisville attracts. (Anthony Davis? The Harrisons? Willie Cauley-Stein? Karl-Anthony Towns? Alex Poythress? Really??)
  • If he didn't want to say "Kentucky" specifically, he wouldn't have. Everyone knows how Pitino walks that line around here. Everyone knows that's a dog whistle around his neck. Might he not just be trying to make insinuations about one of his major recruiting competitors?

Look, we all have to admit that there's a great deal that goes on in the recruiting process that we simply don't know. And high school seniors are walking hormone glands. But, as I recall, Pitino was doing a pretty good job of luring those blue-chippers to Louisville before John Calipari arrived on the scene. He hasn't crafted his Hall of Fame record around developing a bunch of ordinary athletes with some potential.

I remember how infuriated I became, nearly 25 years ago, when Pitino announced that Jamal Mashburn would be leaving Kentucky early, sanctimoniously defending "this young man's" wisdom in determining where his best options for life lay. (And winking to the world of high school athletes that this is what you can expect when you come to Kentucky - and that was years before the current rules were in place. And years before Calipari became the face of the multiple lottery draft picks.)

And then, there's the argument already made by plenty of people: It's disingenuous to think that a control freak like Pitino wouldn't know everything there is to know going on in his program.

So I think that St. Rick would be well-advised to keep his mouth shut in general; and to stop scattering his bits of vitriol in the direction of Lexington. He has other problems, and they're in his own back yard.

Then again, that's what so many barnyard animals do with their own defecation. They indiscriminately throw it around.