This afternoon, Rick Pitino went on Terry Meiners’ show to give a progress report on his Louisville squad and discuss this weekend’s reunion of the 1996 National Championship team from his time at Kentucky. This year is the 20th anniversary of the ’96 squad winning it all, but instead of gathering in Lexington, Pitino and his former players are holding the celebration in Miami, Florida. When asked why, Pitino gave Meiners a simple answer: him.
“You know, Terry, first of all, I know why they’re not honoring — they’ll give you a lot of excuses — but it would hurt, it would distract — me as the Louisville coach, would be distracting for all the players. The fans certainly don’t care for me there anymore. Just the older ones who knew me when I was there, and you remember the little boy on the cover of Sports Illustrated that read, ‘Shame’ and all the embarrassment, similar to the embarrassment we’re going through now at Louisville.”
Hey, hold up, there, Rick. Let’s be clear here, the Emery scandal and coaches hiring prostitutes for players are two very different things. Good? Okay, continue…
“It turned all around — they don’t remember those days,” Rick said of Kentucky fans’ distaste for him now. “Those college kids today weren’t even born. So the fact that we could get away — now, if I wasn’t the Louisville coach, certainly, it deserves to be in Rupp in front of everyone. I’m sure at a later point this season, they’ll do something for that team without me.”
It is worth noting that UK gave the 1996 Championship rings three years ago at a ceremony at Rupp:
Listen to Meiners’ interview below. He asks Pitino about the team not being honored at Rupp around the 11-minute mark: