If you didn’t catch the news (or the herpes that comes with a story about Pitino), the former UK coach just received a 4-year extension from Louisville that would keep him as coach through 2017. When I first heard the news, several questions popped in my head, and I wanted to know what you all thought. Just trying to get a sense of where the UK fanbase stands on all this:
1) Is Rick Pitino as UL’s coach good or bad for the University of Kentucky?
My answer: Good. Even if we were to discount Pitino’s romp in the restaurant last summer and the media firestorm that followed, I will always say that I want UL to be as good as possible, just so long as they don’t beat UK or pass the Cats in the national polls. Obviously all of the negative attention brought to UL last summer, paired with hiring of Calipari, meant that on a public opinion scale, UK has dominated this past 365 days.
But, here is the thing about Pitino NOW: he will never let the Cards program dip to the levels where Denny Crum let it go at the end of his career. BUT, what has become clear is that Pitino will NEVER get it rolling at Louisville like he did at Kentucky. If anything, UL slipped into mediocre stages last season, with next season looking no better. And what’s worse is that as long as Calipari is at Kentucky, the talent will NEVER be as good at Louisville as it is at Kentucky.
So, the way I see it, the rivalry between UL and UK will always be top-notch as long as Pitino and Calipari are at their respective schools, BUT the talent gap between the two should remain the same. I love the fact that we might have an edge on Louisville for the next 7 seasons. Very much.
2) Should Pitino’s troublesome summer have been considered with this extension?
My answer: ABSOLUTELY. To be honest, I was stunned when this news about the extension came out. Not only are we less than a year removed from the low point in Pitino’s career, but he followed it up with an incredibly disappointing season, in which the Cards vastly underperformed. And somehow that warranted a contract extension?
Let’s put it this way: IF Billy Gillispie had been kept on as UK coach, had then picked up for DUI after golfing, and then had the medicore season that would have certainly come in Year 3 of his tenure, would he then be given an extension? I doubt it. But really, Pitino’s problems were worse in my opinion.
The real question is: when a coach has an off-the-court incident/arrest, should there be more than a 1-year buffer period before that coach has a contract extension?
To be fair, Pitino oversees the most profitable college basketball program in the country, and that profit largely depends on the fact that he is the coach. So, what this contract exstention does tell me is that Tom Jurich isn’t as concerned with having a Final Four program as much as brining in that cash.
3) Does Calipari have a permanant hold on the state over Pitino?
My answer: Yes. Maybe it’s the homer in me saying this, but how exactly will Pitino overtake Cal on a yearly basis? It took Cal just ONE SEASON to turn a trainwreck of a team into a national title contender, while Pitino clearly had a poor season, with another one on the way. Pitino’s freshman class this season was Peyton Siva, Mike Marra, Stephen Van Treese, and Rakeem Buckles. Siva is the ONLY one that appears to have star potential. Marra will forever be a shooting specialist, Van Treese has clumsy goof written all over him, and Buckles showed at best average potential.
Calipari recruited 3 first round draft picks. And Darnell Dodson was at least as good as Mike Marra this year, despite the fact he is leaving school. I am not going to give him credit for Orton or Hood, who was recruited by Gillispie. The 2010 class is going to be advantage Cal in a landslide. And the heralded 2011 UL class may STILL not be as good UK’s, especially if Teague comes to Lexington.
And then let me give you another name: Elisha Justice. Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball long ago committed to UL as a walk-on. Calipari gives him one call, and suddenly its up in the air. Is there any player in the state that would do the opposite, commit to Kentucky, and then flip at the call of Pitino. Maybe 5 years ago, but no longer.