In the spring he climbs treetops
and thinks himself tall.
So, after Louisville’s absolute shellacking last night by none other than the formidable Friars (0-4 in the Big East before the game), I figured today is a pretty good time to talk about Rick Pitino. Actually, I had planned to write about him today anyway, and this loss just happened to come at exactly the right time, through what can only be divine intervention. Call it providence, I guess (for those of you trying to keep up at home, that was a play on words).
As I said on Monday, I’m relatively new around here. And reading a new writer is like dating a new girl (those of you who don’t have anything to compare, just take my word for it): there are things that you need to know about her before it gets serious. Does she have a good, supportive family? Any crazy ex-boyfriends to be wary of? Is that condition contagious, and if so, is there medicine available for it? Similarly, a UK writer’s opinion on Rick Pitino is an important fundamental to the writer/reader relationship. So I want to be completely honest with you, and I hope that this can work out between us.
I don’t hate Rick Pitino. I don’t even dislike Rick Pitino. I’m sorry if that upsets you, but it’s true. See, to me, hating Rick Pitino means forgetting about the dominant ’96 team (featuring my all-time favorite player: Tony Delk’s arms), and valiant ’97 team that fell in the title game to Arizona (“I bet the Wildcats are gonna win this game!” -My worst, and most often used, joke that year). I love those teams. I was 10 and 11 in those years (which hopefully excuses the above awful joke), and that’s when I first started garnering a love for UK basketball. Hard not to love them when they’re winning so easily, right? And Rick Pitino is absolutely, one hundred percent the man responsible for those wins.
But, Rick left for the Celtics. I wouldn’t’ve (double contraction = totally legit), but I don’t blame him for doing so. Then, infamously, he took the post as Chief Cardinal (redundant?), and we all feel like we have to hate him for leaving us and, apparently, loving little brother more.
And that’s where the animosity begins to rise, but that animosity is really just a defense mechanism which I aim to rid you of. If that’s the case for you, it may help you to look at Rick Pitino like I do: as used coffee grounds. See, coffee grounds are great when you first put them in the percolator. You get a great, flavorful, aromatic cup (or twelve) of black, sludgy goodness. It’s fantastic. Even if you don’t drink coffee, you like the smell of it (I know you do). Your morning now becomes bearable, and those coffee grounds are absolutely, one hundred percent responsible for that pick-me-up. But when you drink your coffee, and you clean up the kitchen, you don’t keep the grounds in the filter. You toss them in the compost. The last thing I want to do is make a pot of coffee using yesterday’s Folger’s (or a good Costa Rican tarrazu, if you find Folger’s too Plebeian).
In exactly the same way, we got many good years out of Rick Pitino. He was good to us, and I’d like to think that we were good to him. But, like coffee grounds, I think it’s safe to say that that goodness was used up. What’s left is not fit to be used any more, and we have to move forward to the next filter. To do otherwise would be unseemly. So I don’t hate Rick Pitino, and I don’t think you should either. He deserves a sort of nostalgic adulation that’s closer to pity than loathing, and in many ways worse. He’s a “remember when?” man at a “remember winning?” school, and nothing more. I think last night’s game went a long way in exposing that.
Meanwhile, the University of Louisville brags about “stealing” Rick Pitino from us (well, they did before last night). That’s like going through my garbage and “stealing” yesterday’s grounds. You’re welcome to them, if you think you can get anything good out of it. We already got what we wanted (a championship), and both fanbases know you won’t be able to get that again. Personally, we’re much happier with what we have: a fresh coach that still has his best years ahead of him.
-Don’t forget UK Hoops plays Tennessee in Memorial tomorrow at seven. I plan on being there; you should, too.
-I have a tweetster account that you’re welcome to follow (@coreynicholsKSR). I retain the right to counter-heckle, so antagonize at your own risk.