COLUMN: Looking at Pitino’s 11 years with the Cards hoping for more

By on January 24, 2012

By Ryan Martin–

Let’s go back 11 years ago. The date is March 21, 2001. Every loyal Cardinal basketball fan couldn’t be any happier. Why is this? Because that just so happened to be the day that Coach Rick Pitino was hired as the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Louisville. Since then, he’s been a very familiar face around town and even the subject of some controversy.

Now, if a person were to go up to any Cards fan in 2001 and say, “In 11 years, I bet Louisville will have won no championships and have only gone to one Final Four,” they would probably look at you like you’re crazy. After all, Rick Pitino’s the coach now. He did wonders for Kentucky’s basketball team, and now that he’s back at the college level, he will start taking home the championship banners that the fans have been wanting. Obviously, fans today know that it didn’t happen quite like that.

Throughout the span of these 11 years Pitino’s teams have had their ups and downs from the Final Four in 2005, to going to the National Invitation Tournament the very next year. Now look at this year’s Cards; a team that was once regarded as one of the best in the nation has now lost five of their last eight games, and the fans couldn’t be more disappointed. The point is that the Pitino era in Cardinal basketball has been somewhat disappointing. This isn’t to say that Rick Pitino is a bad coach. His record with Kentucky as well as the other teams he has coached has clearly shown that he is quite the opposite. Today, he’s regarded as one of the great coaches in all of basketball, and rightfully so. But the fact of the matter is, when it’s been 11 years and nothing significant has happened, then there comes a time for a change. You see it all the time in sports. Coaches often will get fired, not so much because they’re not doing a good job, but because there is some need for a change. Just look at Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. He won back-to-back Super Bowls and made numerous playoff appearances with the team. But after a while, the team’s performances weren’t meeting expectations and the time came for a change.

Will Rick Pitino leave U of L? If he does, you probably won’t see it happening anytime soon. His contract extension keeps him with the Cards through 2017. The city has embraced the man too much for him to get fired this soon. But give it a few more seasons, and if there aren’t any big turnarounds, Cards fans may be ready for a change. If that by some chance does happen, neither Pitino nor Cards fans need to fear. Imagine the numerous prestigious basketball colleges that will be lining up to hire Pitino. You know he won’t be out of work. And Louisville, being a basketball school itself, would be able to hire a coach pretty close to Pitino’s caliber. Either way, everyone will be happy.

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Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal

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