Rick Pitino made an appearance on Terry Meiners' radio program in Louisville. He talked about his 1996 National Championship team and the reunion that the team will hold in Miami this weekend. Pitino did not shy away from questions about his days at Kentucky and the rift that has grown between him and Kentucky fans.
The entire interview is very good and Pitino is very complimentary of his time at Kentucky. He said that he thinks the '96 team was the greatest ever (I happen to agree) and that it would be tough for any modern team to handle their defensive pressure and the blitz of 91.4 points per game.
But then Meiners asks the question about why the team is not honored in Rupp Arena for the 20th anniversary and the conversation takes a turn.
Here is the audio of the full interview and them some choice quotes after that:
When Terry Meiners put the question to Pitino, shouldn't these guys feel the love in Rupp Arena, here is what the former Kentucky Wildcats coach had to say:
You know, Terry, first of all, I know why they're not honoring, they'll give you a lot of excuses, but it would hurt, it would distract, me as the Louisville coach would be distracting for all of the players.The fans certainly don't care for me there anymore.
Pitino then goes on to talk about how he saved Kentucky basketball after the Emery scandal and how the older generation of fans still appreciate him. But, you know, we young whipper-snappers have no appreciation for him and history. He also compared the Emery scandal to the current scandal(s) plaguing him at UofL right now.
But wait, there's more!
...if I wasn't the Louisville coach, certainly it deserves to be in Rupp in front of everyone. I'm sure at a later point they'll do something this season, they'll do something for that team without me.
What Rick failed to mention was that the 1996 team was honored three years ago without him.They received championship rings in front of a gracious and thankful crowd in Rupp Arena. And there is also the banner in the rafters in honor of the '96 Championship team. And also there is a banner in the rafters that honors Rick Pitino.
But of course, Pitino has to play the martyr here and make it all about him. He 's the entire reason as to why the team cannot be honored at Rupp. I think that if the '96 team came back to Rupp Arena for a 20th-anniversary celebration with Pitino in attendance, there may be a smattering of boos for him, but overall the crowd would enjoy the experience.
Pitino has yet to grasp publicly that he has personally brought on a great deal of the disdain that Kentucky fans have for him. Just this last season, Pitino was filmed and photographed flipping the bird to fans in the crowd as he exited the court once again in defeat at the hands of John Calipari.
Like it or not, Pitino is part of Kentucky's legacy. He should be appreciated for what he did. But that doesn't excuse his clownish behavior and his plethora of embarrassing incidences at UofL. He isn't easy to like. When he finally decides to hang it up, his legacy will be mostly about his time in Louisville. He's their coach now and they can have him.
Anthony Epps, former Kentucky great and member of that '96 team, coincidentally tweeted this earlier in the evening:
The entire '96 team shouldn't be lumped to what may have been said by some. We love the rings that UK gave us and have said our thanks!— Anthony Epps (@epps_anthony) August 22, 2016
This jaunt to Miami is as much about sticking it to Kentucky as it is about getting together with his former players.