“I’ll give you all three for Tim Duncan. And $3,000. I’ve got that lying around right now.”
Depending on your perspective, this is either going to be salt in a wound, or an interesting little exercise in the hypothetical. Hopefully, you’re in the latter camp; if not, well I’m not sure I can help you. But Adam Zagoria posted some musings last night (or, actually, very early this morning), asking: “What if Ricky Three Stacks Never Left?” He didn’t use the name “Three Stacks, but c’mon, how hilarious would that be? Apart from probably missing out on that whole Karen Sypher thing, there are a lot of ways that Pitino could have been better off staying in Lexington. Then again, there were also plenty of good reasons to leave. About seventy million of them, actually.
But Zagoria, and site-favorite Jay Bilas (who seems to be everywhere right now), agree on one thing: if he’d never left, Pitino would be up to his ears in championships.
Not only would Pitino have significantly more wins had he stayed at Kentucky, he might have as much hardware as Coach K or Adolph Rupp, who own four apiece and trail only John Wooden’s 10.
“If he had stayed at Kentucky, he’d have four national championships by now, I really believe that,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told SNY.tv.
“That program that he built went to three straight championship games and was an overtime period away from a three-peat [96-98]. If he had stayed there, the idea that that program wouldn’t have sustained excellence over time when he’s done that at Louisville, that doesn’t wash. He’s an extraordinary coach as a tactician, as a recruiter, as a motivator, as an in-game coach.”
Obviously he has the one, and it’s only fair to give him the second, since everyone claims that Tubby won with his players anyway. But do you really believe he would have four championships? He’s gotten Louisville to multiple Final Fours, and that was starting from scratch. What if he’d been able to keep his momentum from the near-threepeat? As it is, Pitino’s left wondering, and regretting, the same thing.
“I think I do regret leaving Kentucky because I took over a team with 15 wins banking everything on the Tim Duncan lottery, and once we didn’t get Tim Duncan I realized that leaving Kentucky was not a good move.”
Without Tim Duncan, Pitino wasn’t able to get that NBA title he so coveted, and eventually made his way back to the Commonwealth. The rest is all-too familiar to us.
It’s strange to consider that we were “spurned” as part of the Tim Duncan sweepstakes, but that’s the business of basketball. With Cal here now, we don’t feel the pressure to worry about coaches, and it’s more fun to speculate one the what-ifs of the Pitino situation. Like a lot of break-ups, this is one that maybe, over time, was better for both parties. Pitino got a little taste of humble pie, and Kentucky fans stopped taking elite coaches for granted. Thanks, Billy Clyde.
So while it’s fun to speculate on what could have been, it’s even more fun to look at what is: Pitino’s doing well at Louisville, and Cal is right in between National Championship runs.
I think things worked out in the end.