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Has Rick Pitino Underachieved At Louisville? Taking A Look At The Numbers.


You.  Are.  Turrible.

Warning: Louisville and statistic heavy post.  If you’re not into either, please proceed to the comment section and begin hating.

Yesterday on the radio show, Matt got in another discussion on whether or not Rick Pitino has underachieved during his time at Louisville.  As the summer months drag on, this is the kind of thing we get to talking about.  Still, it’s an interesting question and one I think most logical fans would answer ‘yes’ to.  But just because our gut feeling tells us that Rick Pitino underachieved doesn’t mean that he has, so let’s take a look at the numbers and see what they tell us.

First let’s get the two perspective most readers will come at this from out of the way.  Kentucky fans will almost always say he has underachieved.  First because he coaches for our rival and any dig we can get in at him is one we will take.  But second and more importantly, because when Pitino went to Louisville, most Kentucky fans thought he would replicate his years at Kentucky down the road – the fact that he has not leads us to believe he hasn’t lived up to expectations.  Louisville fans will likely side with Pitino, because a number of them believe he has brought them back from the depths of the basketball world.  The question remains, has he brought them back far enough?

For our purposes, we will look at a number of factors.

1.) Pitino’s winning percentage (in the college game)

2.) The programs winning percentage

3.) Post season performance for both


Pitino’s Wins By The Numbers

First let’s take a look at Pitino’s winning percentage.  The rationale behind this, is to see if Louisville has seen the results they would have predicted when they first hired him.  Pitino’s first coaching job was at Boston University where he took a team from the bottom of a conference to winning the America East.  His total record was 91-51 with a 21-10 final season, to give him a winning percentage of 0.64.  Not bad for a first head coaching gig – this lasted five years, when he made the move to Providence.

At Providence, Pitino kept his winning ways going and went 42-23 to stay at a 0.64 winning percentage.  He capped his second year with a run to the final four that catapulted him into the NBA ranks as the head coach of the Knicks.  As you all know, he spent two years in New York before taking over at Kentucky, where he found a new level of success for himself.

Pitino’s tenure at Kentucky was no doubt his best run so far.  In eight seasons, he amassed a powerful record of 219-50 (with 14 of the losses coming in his first season) – a winning percentage of 0.81 for the Cats.  As I’m sure you are all well aware, this included one national title, one runner up, one final four finish, and two finishes in the elite eight in only 6 post season eligible seasons.  Pretty huge numbers for Slick Rick.

After another disappointing stint in the NBA, Pitino returned to coach at the University of Louisville and has been coaching there for 10 seasons to date. His total win/loss record (C-USA and BEast,) is 220-85 – a winning percentage of 0.72.  This is just a smidge under his career average of 0.73.

Meanwhile, under Pitino the Cardinals have been to one final four finish, two elite eights, five losses in the first weekend and two trips to the NIT.


Looking At Louisville

Next let’s take a look at what Louisville fans should expect.  As Matt often brings up in these discussions, Louisville should be considered a top 7 program in the nation.  When ranking traditional powers, you would put UK, UNC, UCLA, Kansas and Duke in the top five in some order.  Then likely follow with Indiana and Louisville at 6-7.  These rankings are not solid, of course, but they are generally considered to be correct based on historical significance (see Indiana/UCLA) as well as how well the programs are currently doing.

It took Louisville until 1944 before they got their first consistently good coach in Bernard Hickman.  Hickman won the NAIB championship as well as the NIT championship back when it meant something.  He established Louisville as a national program, and his overall coaching percentage was .71, for those keeping track at home.

With that being understood, we will begin looking at the Louisville program at the start of Hickman’s tenure.  From 1944 to 2001, from Hickman to Dromo to Crum, the total win loss record for UofL was 1186-501 for a winning percentage of .70. During the Crum era from 1971-2001, UofL amassed two titles, four final four finishes, one elite eights and nine sweet sixteens (though only five of those finishes of those happened after the field expanded to 64.)


Putting It All Together

If you look solely at total wins, Rick Pitino has increased the Louisville winning percentage by a hair (0.70 to 0.71,) while dragging his own down about the same amount (0.73 to 0.72.)

If you take into account post season finishes, prior to Pitino (during the modern era – we’ll say beginning with Crum) Louisville was finishing with a sweet sixteen or better 53% of the time.  With Rick Pitino it is 30%.  Crum made it to the final four in 20% of his seasons, Pitino has made it there in 10%.



It’s tough to draw a definitive answer to the question of whether or not Rick has underachieved, but here are the facts as we see them.

-Before Rick came to Louisville, he was much more successful both in the regular season and post season. Meaning the average fan would have expected more from Pitino at the beginning of his ten year run, regardless of allegiances.

-Before Louisville hired Rick Pitino, they were much more successful in the post season, though a little less in the regular season. Does success in the regular season continue to cement your status among the elite – particularly when teams from your own conference are consistently out performing you?

So here’s what you have to ask yourself – are post season or regular season results more important?  Should the number seven program in the nation be okay with three trips past the first weekend in March in ten years?

As a Kentucky fan, I will always look at Pitino through the glasses of what he did here and believe him to be a disappointment at Louisville (though not too disappointing considering who they are and all.)

So what say you?

Article written by Will Lentz

44 Comments for Has Rick Pitino Underachieved At Louisville? Taking A Look At The Numbers.

  1. Ryan
    7:48 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    First….da ville sucks

  2. Wayne
    8:00 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    I know Louisville fans that are thoroughly disappointed

  3. Bg Cat
    8:04 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    I Dont See How Anyone Can Look At Pitino s Tenure At UL As Anything But A Failure. 7 Out Of 10 Years ~ NIT Or First Weekend Exit Equals Failure.

  4. Jimmy Buffett
    8:08 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink


  5. GoCats2
    8:14 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    I say we drop Lousiville from our schedule until they become relevant again. If the state is worried about losing the revenue that the annual game brings in, tell them we will add them to the preseason schedule between Pikeville and Athletes in Action.

  6. Computer Blue
    8:14 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    His tournament success is definitely underachieving. Take away that 1 Final Four and it would be nothing short of a disaster. Louisville should be able to finish Sweet 16 at least most years.

  7. Holden McGroin
    8:18 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    out of all those numbers, there has to be a 15 in there somewhere.

  8. klassact32
    8:22 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Who cares about him and Louisville. Really can’t believe you are so fixed on him. What I find odd is your wasting your time wondering what Louisville and Kentucky fans think about a loser for a coach.

  9. klassact32
    8:23 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    I would also rate Michigan State higher than Louisville.

  10. Guck Foodman
    8:26 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Summary – He’s washed up. I mean, look at the guy. I’ve never seen a man more washed up.

  11. bung
    8:27 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Cat fans dont care….

  12. Rafe
    8:27 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Will, I’m not sure what is more pathetic: Your obsession with Rick Pitino or the fact that you spent hours researching and typing that post out for $6.50 an hour.

  13. Bluuu
    8:29 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Two points:
    -Rick made close to the same amount last year as Denny made his entire career. 7mil.
    -Slightly better reg season under Rick, not if you consider Denny would play anyone any where. Rick non conf. schedule is pathetic.

  14. KD
    8:37 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    If any fan UL or Ky thought Rick would do what he did with that run at Uk is dislusional.He came to Ky with a NBA style that wasn’t being done at the time he set a standard for that moment.He lived off his name when he got to UL and got caught with his pants down as this AAU thing took off he didn’t play that game and has now have to play catch up plus had alot those hot recruits had came to UL i do beleive he would had better sucess. But being a top 5 i do beleive paid coach yes he has underacheived any other coach with not a hot name two back to back 1st round losses they be gone.

  15. Big Blue Nation
    8:43 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Ran into one of 4 UL fans I know over the weekend, he said he doesn’t care anymore and wants Pitino gone.

  16. cracka
    8:44 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    good point 3 and 9 … would also put uconn up pretty high (even before this past year) – they have 13 sweets, 9 elites, 4 final fours and 3 ships in the last 21 years

    but denny crum coached his last 6 years with louisville in conference usa and went 110-83 … that’s like going 11-8 over and over again for 6 years with a bunch of bunny games and not a really tough conference … ricky p has not done quite what i thought he would be able to do with louisville, but he’s made them better and more importantly, he’s made them fun to watch imo

    can’t wait to stomp them this year!

  17. SexnNursinHomes
    8:45 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    rick can’t leave ul till he has more scandals than final fours

  18. ?
    8:45 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    12) im not sure what’s more pathetic the fact that your against him researching, most likely the most crucial aspect of writing a good article (writing is also pretty important in Writing an article), or the fact that you think he cares what someone named rafe has to say.

  19. JChoy
    8:57 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Louisville is fading pretty fast in terms of “all-time great programs” and here’s how I figure this: When your only pair of national titles come out of ONE decade, under ONE coach, that’s not great in terms of “consistency”. Michigan State has as many titles and final fours and have achieved this more consistency through different time periods. A team like UCONN over all does not have more final fours as UL, but in time they will surely pass them in terms of all-time historical significance (if not already, considering UCONN now had 3 national titles). But of course this is based off consistency, which in my opinion, is the greatest measure of success.

    In terms of the question debating whether Rick Pitino has underachieved at UL? The answer has to be YES. Countless/questionable losses year in and year out to the daytons, depauls (early 2000’s), western carolinas, east carolinas, drexels, etc during the regular season. A losing record of 4-6 when facing UK (alot of those games came from tubby is his later/downish years and the Gillespie Era). Not to mention his players: not panning out and eventually playing overseas, numerous injuries, transfers, decommitments like no ones business, and lot of the players who stayed committed found themselves playing the role of “complimentary players.” Edgar Sosa was a McDonalds all american, samardo samuels became the number one prospect in his recruiting class once brandon jennings left for italy, terrence jennings had 5 star status, Brandon jenkins had 5 star status, jerry smith = 4 stars, etc. – How’d they pan out???

    4 players drafted in 10 years (only Garcia has made somewhat of a splash in the NBA).

    Plus what’s been said with his post season record (which is what matters most) the man can’t seem to keep any momentum when he catches any sort of glimmer of hope.

    There’s your novel folks (for those of you who read it) lol

  20. U of Smell sucks
    9:05 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    For the 50th time, it’s not louisville,

    it’s LOSERVILLE.

    Why is KSR afraid to call them LOSERVILLE??? They call us every name in the book. Let’s make it OFFICIAL. It’s LOSERVILLE from this day on.

  21. Maggard's Left Nut
    9:11 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Thing would have been diferent had James Lang not gone pro. Semardo Samuels would have saved Gillispie’s job had the package deal with the South American point guard worked.

  22. Steve
    9:22 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    20. Because it’s lame. And you are lame as well.

  23. A Realist
    9:47 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    I say.. Who cares? This is a UK Board. If I wanted to read about Louisville, I would go to a Louisville site. Pitino was good at Providence, Great at UK, terrible in Boston and average at Louisville. Thats all the attention that needs to be given to it.

  24. Makersnseven
    9:50 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Can someone get in touch with Will Lentz and let him know BTI is blogging under his name…….

  25. Wildcat TJ
    10:05 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    He’s been competitive in the Big East. Maybe that’s good enough. Can you name another high profile coach that could be consistent in the Big East AND be willing to go to Louisville?

  26. Confuscious say
    10:12 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Maybe RP loved UK so much that he took the UL job to drive it into the ground. He first wanted to see if he could make a final 4 again, then when he did, he thought to himself,” Watch me cause the cards to implode.” The whole time he has been getting worse and worse. He’s just laughing because tommy turtleneck is such a good buddy that he won’t fire him. All the while RP just keeps loserville from anything respectable. It’s making him look bad, but in his last bio he’ll tell the story of helping UK get back on track by driving the birds in the dumpster. If this is truely what he is doing, he really did think UK was camelot and UL was the moat. I don’t know if I should thank him now or wait until his last bio comes out. Working on the title to his last bio, “How the Cats got the birds”. JMHO

  27. Flat Top
    10:30 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    Why are you spending so much time breaking down the coach of Louisville? Who cares? I’m not trying to be a smartass, but I don’t understand the relevancy to this blog. Now, if he bangs a GILF at a Chinese restaurant, have at it.

  28. UKGoBigBlue
    10:46 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    There is 1 very important fact that is not being calculated into Rick success at UK; Cal famous quote of the “Kentucky Effect” !! The KY Effect is also something that helps with recruiting. Seriously, if you’re a recruit, and you look at UK facilities long with Wildcat Lodge verses UL facilities or the lack there of, enough said. UK recruiting is going to get even better when the new lodge is built. If you’re a recruit and you look at UK campus along with the beautiful UK girls (How U Do’in) verses the commuter campus of UL, enough said.

    UL is an F’ing joke, and everyday UL fans just reinforce this fact. Let UL & their fans have Pitino, let them keep wasting millions of dollars along with getting ripped off for their tickets on Pitino. Pitino isn’t taking UL anywhere except for a ride, and UL fans are too stupid to figure it out.

  29. winchesterheights
    11:26 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    not to back Pitino up but you can only really count one NIT. that team he inherited was the Louisville Brandon Benders with Cameron Murray as the PG. The worst UL team I’ve ever seen and them going to the NIT was a huge improvement in most peoples eyes. i think the team before that (Dennys last season) had a losing record. i could be wrong.

  30. Mad Hatter
    11:28 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    I loved Rick when he was at Kentucky but to go to Loserville, he has turned that program into Indiana. I say drop them both until they become relevant and karma is a bitch.

  31. steveo
    11:31 pm July 6, 2011 Permalink

    #28 while your points are mostly valid the facilities comment is ridiculous. louisville prides themselves on that and its one thing they have going for them. have you ever been to the Yum Center? joke about the lame name all you want, it is the nicest arena in college basketball right now, even Matt Jones said so. i think with the exception of the final four season (a team i didnt think was any good) Pitino has underachieved. I really didnt make that decision until he blew it against Mich St in the Elite 8. No way they shouldnt have been in the title game against UNC. Who has that much talent (2 lottery picks) and a 1 seed and loses in the Elite 8 with an easy road to the final four…Pitino!

  32. UK2K
    12:48 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    It’s weird that there’s all this talk of how UofL has been irrelevant since the 80’s but UK/UL are almost on equal footing in terms of post season success in the past decade.

  33. JMFATZ47
    1:40 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    31. UK had 3 lottery picks in 09-10 and we lost in the elite 8. Just sayin….

    Pitino has underachieved– on and off the court. The amount he is paid does not support his track record at UL.

    Michigan St is overrated as well…..

    Cats will hang #8 this season. This team will be machine-like.

  34. Big Blue Barber
    7:14 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    This is actually a very good post. Good job Lentz……but it does have a BTI aroma. But I like it anyway.
    33 has a point….we should have gone farther with the teams we’ve had in Cals time here so far. Should have won it with Wall-Cuz,best team in the tournament. Should have won it this year- best team left in the tournament. It all depends on your perspective. How far did you go or , or the hindsight perspective how far should you have gone given the results after the tournament was over.

  35. Seriously
    8:02 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    You guys should just make a since you are all starting to care about UofL sooo much. Then you can make your pointless posts and UK fans dont have to see crap about UofL and we can all be happy.

  36. Wildcatfan in Indiana
    8:40 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    I don’t think Pitino has been a factor at all in Louisville–although UL fans were hoping he would be. I don’t care who coaches there, it’s still LOUISVILLE and it will never be an elite program. Most people look at them as Kentucky Wannabe’s.

  37. Zeus
    9:01 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    I think to evaluate Pitino’s performance at UL, you have to measure his success versus the expectations for the team. For example, UK was ranked around 15-20 pre-season this past year; The Final Four was an overachievement, the regular season an appropriate achievement. Of course, you have two bars, the national expectations and the fan base expectations — UL fans expected a UK-like resurgence when they hired Pitino, where they would be in the title discussion every year, while the national expectations were more reasonable, like getting back to conference competitiveness and being ranked regularly. I think Pitino has achieved appropriately by the national standard, but under-achieved by the fan base expectations.

  38. Alex
    10:31 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    Although Rick has been able to keep UL somewhat relevant, I would definitely say that he has underachieved. UofL claims to be one of the top b-ball programs in the country and I think history is on their side. With that belief, one would have to argue that he has underachieved. UL hasn’t been a Final Four contender in the majority of years that he’s been there. I’ll always have love for Rick for what he did for our program in the 90s. Had he stayed in Lexington, I’m certain he would be the 2nd most revered coach in the history of college basketball next to Wooden. That may sound crazy, but I don’t know how one could make an argument against that.

  39. cardANDcatfan
    10:45 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    As a Cardinal season ticket holder, I can tell you that I think he has underachieved (relative to our expectations), and that he should have been fired as a result of the Sypher embarrassment.

  40. ukwildcatfans
    10:53 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    I hope Pitino does leave, but not because I have anything against UL, I just can’t stand him. I actually used to root for UL (other than when they played the Cats)as I liked Denny and respected him as a coach. But when Rick left he let me know that either he didn’t understand the rivalry between the schools, or he just had no class. If Rick leaves, I can once again root for a fellow Kentucky squad for most of the year.

  41. markp
    11:26 am July 7, 2011 Permalink

    Pitino has done okay at U of L. The point is since the three pointer was introduced to the game U of L became less significant. Before that they were better than us because they had a great coach in Cool Hand Luke. In his day he was better than Rick and underappreciated at U of L and by Cat fans. If Crum would have been with UK during his heyday he would have done even better. The point is, you put Mario Andretti in a Volkswagon he will not drive as fast as he would in a Porsche.

  42. Bernard Hickman
    1:04 pm July 7, 2011 Permalink

    Those who know me(and anything about college basketball history)call me Peck.

  43. Andy Scott
    4:24 pm July 7, 2011 Permalink

    As a UK fan, as long as slick rick keeps losing to us and doesn’t make another final four he’s a great fit at UofL.

  44. BluegrassBadA**
    6:19 pm July 7, 2011 Permalink

    Very good points all around but you have to take into account Pitino’s cake OOC schedule not mention the early seasons he spent playing against C-USA teams. 72% in the regular season is really bad considering those two things and he hasn’t made up for it in the tourney. Especially for what is ‘supposed’ to be a top 7 program. BTW, I would put Mich State, Arizona, and UCONN ahead of Louisville without thinking twice. Probably 1 or 2 more if you give me time.