Rick Pitino no longer coaches the Louisville Cardinals basketball team. While his firing was justified (and maybe a little belated), the rivalry between the Cards and the Kentucky Wildcats without him on the sideline has lost some luster.
David Padgett is a fine person and may even be a great coach one day, but I cannot muster the hatred for him that I had for Pitino. The history isn’t there and thus far Padgett has the personality of a day old doughnut.
Now that the defining era of the rivalry has passed, the heat between the fanbases has cooled off to some extent. The visceral hatred that was once there, at least from the Kentucky perspective, is gone.
Here are the top 10 games and moments from the rivalry when it was at its best and its worst.
10. Bam Adebayo Dunks all over Anas Mahmoud
Although it was in a losing effort, Bam Adebayo abused the Egyptian center. Bam’s muscle proved to be too much to handle for Anas or Mangok Mathiang, and it can be argued that Bam wasn’t utilized enough. It was only the second time that Pitino beat Cal and it was the final time the two coaches would face off.
9. Chris Jones Flops
The 2014/2015 was a magical one for Kentucky fans. The dominance that team showed may never again be equaled. The Cards weren’t expected to win that game and they didn’t. To add insult to injury, UofL point guard Chris Jones gave the flop of all flops as he tried to draw a foul on Dakari Johnson. Jones ended up being booted from the team.
8. Rick Flips off Rupp
Pitino went out like a punk in his final game in Rupp Arena. After a loss to the Cats in 2015, Rick Pitino was catching hell from the crowd on his way out. In response, the sorest of losers flipped the bird to Kentucky fans forever fracturing the esteem in which he was once held in Lexington.
7. Willie Cauley-Stein clowns Montrezl Harrell
The Louisville player that I disliked the most during this era was Montrezl Harrell. Nobody was better and flexing and screaming after every dunk. Every. Single. One. That’s why when WCS, one of the most beloved Cats, took Trezl’s candy, dunked on him, and them stared him down, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside.
6. The Jorts Game
The focus for Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals during the 2010 match up at the KFC YUM! Center was Terrence Jones. At the time he was the best player for Kentucky and had been putting up monster numbers. When Pitino decided to double Jones, Josh Harrellson made the Cards pay. Jorts ended the game with a double-double, 23 points and 14 rebounds, in Kentucky’s first win at the Yum! Center.
5. Tyler Ulis’ Bloody Eye
There were a ton of highlights from the 2014 game, but this was the best one. Andrew Harrison was struggling for Kentucky, specifically with the quickness of Chris Jones. He was ineffective so John Calipari was forced to play freshman Tyler Ulis. All Ulis did was come off the bench and completely control the tempo. While Chris Jones was flopping his way into infamy, Ulis suffered an actual injury and stayed in to win the game.
4. DeMarcus Cousins elbows Jared Swopshire
In John Calipari’s first game against Louisville as Kentucky’s coach, he had the far superior team with John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. Rick Pitino’s Louisville team boasted Reginald Delk, Jerry Smith, and Jared Swopshire. Pitino knew the only way he could win is if he could get into the heads of the Kentucky players and muck up the game.
Delk started in on Bledsoe early in the game, but the big moment was when Boogie got tangled up with Swopshire. Much to the chagrin of Rick, Cousins was allowed to stay in the game and Cal notched his first of 8 wins against Pitino.
3. Kentucky Beats Louisville in the Final Four
John Calipari and the Wildcats were supposed to be there while Pitino and the Cards were there as a surprise. The two faced off in New Orleans in 2012 for a spot in the national title game. Louisville gave a good fight, but in the end Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Darius Miller off of the bench proved to much. The Cats went one to win title number eight.
2. Kentucky upsets Louisville in the Sweet 16
The Cats were an eight seed and the Cards were a four seed but they were clicking on all cylinders at that point in the season. Pitino and the Cards were looking to get back to the Final Four while Cal and the Cats were just happy to be there. But Aaron Harrison hit the first of many big threes while Alex Poythress completely locked down Luke Hancock. The win was improbable and probably the fan favorite in this era.
1. John Calipari hired as Kentucky head coach
This was the moment that changed everything. Up until this point, Rick Pitino was the big dog in the Commonwealth. Even though Tubby Smith owned Rick, Pitino was still the bigger personality. But when Cal rolled into town with his revolutionary view of the one and done system, Rick was left in the dust. He would beat Calipari only twice in 10 meetings. Cal put Rick out of the tournament twice. And Pitino finished better in the tournament only one time and all of those wins from 2012/2013 are about to be wiped from the record books. John Calipari completely owned and dominated Rick Pitino during this era. Both on and off the court.