We like Kent Spencer. In addition to his stellar hair, the current WHAS TV in Louisville sportscaster used to reside in Lexington and was one of our favorite local television personalities. But sometimes even the best of us can have mistakes. For instance last night, when Spencer was on Lachlan McClain’s radio show and said that Rick Pitino had outcoached John Calipari in all four of their games while at Louisville. Spencer noted that due to the discrepancy in talent, one would have expected Calipari and Kentucky to blow the Cards out, but it didn’t happen in the matchups. He was then corrected about the 2011 season game in the Yum Center and Spencer conceded that in that game, Calipari may have gotten the better of Rick. However in the other three, Pitino was the master and Calipari the student.
Because I like Spencer, we will make this brief. The “Rick outcoaches Calipari” argument is the de jour excuse of the Pitino apologists. Rather than simply acknowledge that Calipari has owned Pitino during his three years in Lexington, those that want to make life better for Pitino try to find an excuse to explain his 4-0 record. For Rick Bozich, that excuse was the bizarre Courier Journal column saying that Calipari had “Pitino envy.” For Howie Lindsey and other UK fan sites, it is suggesting that UL does things the “right way” and that Calipari must be cheating. And now for Kent Spencer and many others, it is the claim that Pitino “outcoaches” Calipari, and that UK only wins because of superior talent. Because Pitino can’t win on the court, or at least hasn’t won yet, there must be an explanation beyond simply coaching superiority. Whatever it is, it can’t be that Calipari > Pitino, so excuses are made.
Leave aside that recruiting is part of “coaching” and the fact still remains. The goal of coaching is to win. Louisville fans always insist that their program is able to compete on the same level as “Big Brother.” And in fact, this year some believe Louisville could get title #3. If there are no structural barriers to success at UL (and the fact they are in the supposed best conference in college basketball would suggest that there are not), then the fact is that losing four straight, including one rout on your home court, is all the explanation that is needed. For three years Calipari has owned Pitino…and if Rick doesn’t win this year, he may never win again.
Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades and unless Louisville wants to start hanging up banners for “Outcoaching Opponents we lose to”, then acceptance of Calipari’s three-year domination should be the next step for Louisville media sad that their hero cannot beat his Lexington white whale.