Today we take on maybe the most polarizing figure in the UK world today, Rick Pitino. Pitino saved Kentucky, plain and simple. His hire by CM Newton allowed UK to quickly recover from probation and become a national power again, while also instituting a highly entertaining brand of basketball. But after leading Kentucky to 2 straight national title games, he bolted, failed in the NBA, and then took a job with our rival. And eventually led our rival to a national title too.
Well, I have always argued that I hold no bad feelings toward Pitino because I only take what he did while the coach of our school into account. It’s the same reason that it doesn’t matter to me either way if a guy is successful in the NBA or NFL. I hold as much love for Jeff Sheppard as I do for Anthony Davis and their NBA careers have zero to do with it. Once Pitino left UK, my feelings for him were set. I appreciated what he did for the program and should be considered one of our greatest coaches. I got this letter in 2011 from a guy about Pitino and I’ve always held onto it because I think it perfectly encapsulates what many in this fanbase feel but are often shouted over by those fans who want to hate everything.
“BTI, you are one to say crazy things so let me throw this one at you. As a Kentucky fan since 1987, Rick Pitino and his tenure at Kentucky were a huge part of my fanhood. I would say that even during the 2 Calipari years, I haven’t gotten as excited as I did during Pitino’s time in Lexington. Then, after taking us to a title once and 2 other Final Fours, he left for one of the great coaching jobs in sports for an absurd amount of money. He failed in Boston, and has openly admitted that leaving Lexington was the biggest mistake of his career.
But this is where it gets hazy for me. When he was gone from Boston, there were basically 3 major college basketball jobs open: Michigan, UNLV, and Louisville. And from what I understand, and what you typically get from Tom Jurich, UL offered him the most money, and is likely the most prestigious of those 3 jobs. So Pitino took it.
In my opinion, he simply made the best business decision for him. I have never understood the hatred for taking the job of the rival, especially since Pitino had no ties to UK before taking the job in 1989. It would absolutely be different if Joe B. Hall took the UL job because he was a UK player and bled blue. Pitino took the UK job not because he loved Kentucky, but simply because it was the best job available at the time. Which is exactly what he did at Louisville as well.
So again, why is it a requirement as a UK fan to hate Pitino? The man brought this program back from its darkest day and then made 2 business decisions that were best for his checkbook. I am sure he came to love the program, but to assume because he coached here he was FORBIDDEN from coaching Louisville seems absurd to me. Especially when you consider there was another job in between those 2 stops.
And if you choose to publish this, don’t let people tell you it is about the abortion. All that Sypher crap did was add ammunition to UK fans arsenal. They hated him at 100% before, and that just made it funnier. Nobody hates him now that didn’t hate him before Sypher. So that is a cop-out excuse to hate the guy simply because their feelings were hurt for silly reasons before.
So I guess the question is: Why should we hate a guy that brought us so much joy? I don’t get it and consider me a lifelong Pitino fan for what he did. And I hope he loses every game at UL. Hahaha. Keep it up. Don’t let the haters get you down.
-Jerry in Bardstown”
I love it. Jerry hits on all the major points but I don’t understand hating a person who did so much for our program. Did he elevate our rival? Yes. But wouldn’t you rather have a competitive rival that means so much more to beat than a rival who barely wins 15 games a year, as it was at the end of the Denny Crum tenure? If we couldn’t have Pitino here, I am glad he went to Louisville. Doesn’t make it easy when they win it all, but it makes it that much sweeter to beat them in the NCAA Tournament……twice.
So, is there any chance this fanbase loves Pitino 100% ever again? I hope so, but I know that is wishful thinking. Is it just impossible for some of you to ever get behind him again?