West Virginia. What a place. Outsiders would never want to live there, residents don’t want to leave. Something about the winding roads, the mountains, the us-against-the-world mentality.
The love was visible in the face of Bill Stewart, tears flowing after waxing Oklahoma. Even the “runaway beer truck” of a fullback, Owen Schmitt, was unable to maintain his composure. The elusive Pat White took advantage of a TV microphone to announce his choice of Stewart as the next head football coach.
The only thing missing at the Fiesta Bowl was a good turnout of WVU fans, who must have assumed a trip to Arizona was a waste of time without Rich Rodriguez. The loss to Pittsburgh didn’t help help either. The university had returned 7,500 of its allotted 17,500 tickets.
Apparently the loyalty of WVU fans only goes so far. Fortunately for the fans, the team won without them.
Cat fans are pulling out the Sharpies and the cardboard already, preparing their hate signs for the bi-annual assault on Rick Pitino as he delivers the Cards to Lexington. The hardliners have never got over Pitino leaving, believing Pitino is more to blame for their current woes than Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie combined.
Wonder if the Louisville executive, who hired a local design firm to do his personal Hate-Pitino sign for Rupp Arena in 2001, is up to his old antics again? Wouldn’t surprise this observer at all.
They still have little regard for the coach who pulled them out of the swamp in the mid-nineties. The scandal-ridden Kentucky basketball team had taken a nosedive, earning a front cover on Sports Illustrated with the headline, “Kentucky’s Shame” UK President David Rochelle declared that Kentucky’s basketball program was “going down the plumbling,”okaying more than $350,000 in legal fees.
The outlook changed dramatically after Pitino brought his drive to succeed in high gear to Lexington, delivering three Final Four appearances and a national championship. Pitino ball worked then, three-pointers were excessive, the fast break and the full court press consistently devoured the opposition. His teams humbled Denny Crum, helping to hurry up the end of a great career. The Cats had everything going for them, even won another title with Pitino’s players after he left for Boston.
That’s old news, only part of a “great” tradition. The fanatics believe it happened because they are Kentucky, that winning was their birthright, that UK made Pitino successful instead of vice versa. Some would even pull the Pitino banner down from the rafters.
Go ahead. Draw up those hate signs. Just don’t expect Pitino to save you again.
— Strange, why so many opposing teams are more effective than U of L in hitting three-point shots in Freedom Hall. Rick Pitino rose to greatness via the three-point arc, and it has to be a major disappointment for him.
— Pitino complains that some of the players don’t give much credence to scouting reports, that they run the wrong plays, and that they are out of position on defense. Going to be a long season if there is an attention deficit.
— Derrick Caracter was stopped cold on both ends of the court. Think the opposition is paying attention to the U of L scouting report?
— Maybe the coach should quit trying to be a comedian and be the straight man for a while. More often than not lately, he is making serious pronouncements that are quickly proven otherwise. How many times have you told yourself lately, “That’s just Pitino talking?”
— If these players are as good as fans have convinced themselves they are, it’s just a matter of time before they snap out of their stupor. If not, fans have been kidding themselves.
* * *
David Padgett picks up in the Cincinnati game right where he left off in the Jackson State game, playing with more heart than any U of L player in recent memory.
Mick Cronin had to do a double take when he read the U of L-Iona game story, especially the part about when Rick Pitino presented a Rolex watch to Kevin Willard. Always playing mind games that Pitino. Also a former U of L assistant, Cronin probably figures Pitino ran out of the Christmas spirit with that gift. But you never know with Pitino.
Watch or no watch, Cronin will have his Cincinnati team wound up for the Louisville game. The Bearcats have a 5-7 won-lost record but they challenged Memphis, North Carolina State and Xavier before losing. The Mick has yet to establish his credentials as a head coach; a win over Louisville would go a long way with UC fans.
The Cards hold a 51-38 edge in the all-time series between the teams.
Fitting end to a rotten football season, watching Kentucky play a bowl game against a team missing 36 players. UK fans masquerading as having a clue about football. Florida State quarterback wasting all kinds of opportunities. The great news is that leading tackler Wesley Woodyard will be gone next season.