Joanne Pitino put Louisville first

Joanne-Pitino---2Joanne Pitino applauds the University of Louisville’s NCAA championship during a community celebration at the KFC Yum! Center in April.

Before we get too far removed from that splendid moment in April when the University of Louisville basketball team cut down the NCAA championship nets in Atlanta, a little credit to someone who has played a major role in UofL’s success.

Joanne Pitino, his wife, remember, was the person who convinced Rick Pitino to accept the head coaching position at Louisville when it appeared Pitino might be headed toward the University of Michigan.  Dick Vitale, his good friend, was convinced that Pitino was headed to Ann Arbor at the time, and was actively campaigning for the Wolverines.

As the story goes, Joanne reminded her husband of how much he had enjoyed his time in the Bluegrass State, urged him to return to the state he loved.

According to a report in the Courier-Journal, Pitino was all but ready to retire after a 62-61 loss to Morehead State in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2011 before he discussed the idea of going into broadcasting with Joanne:

“I decided to meet with an agent — a broadcasting agent — and we struck a deal to leave the sport,” Pitino told CBS Radio in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday. “I went home and told my wife the great news — that I’m going into broadcasting — and she told me, ‘You can’t do it.’ And I said, why not?

“She said, ‘Because you go to bed at night so excited about waking up in the morning and coaching basketball. You stay up all night and watch every game on television.’”

Pitino insisted he’d do that as well as a broadcaster, but Joanne knew better. He’d miss mentoring the kids too much.

To the rescue, again.

Rick gives her all the credit for some potential life-changing decisions, which turned in UofL’s favor, ultimately leading to a third national championship. Back to prominence, just as he promised when he first landed in Louisville.

For that, UofL fans can thank Joanne.

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Author: Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, as well as a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.