Louisville basketball outlook a little wobbly


Ten months ago, his basketball team cutting down the NCAA tournament championship nets in Atlanta. Rick Pitino back in the spotlight, one day the Georgia Dome, a few weeks later entering the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield.

At the top of his game, only coach to ever win national championships at two different schools, Pitino was back where belonged, among the elite in his profession. Writing still another book, always ready with advice to anyone who will listen, sharing his unique insights on success.

Entering the 2013 season riding the crest of a 16-game win streak, his University of Louisville basketball team ranked among the top three teams in the nation in numerous pre-season polls. His team would extend the streak to 21 games, winning the first five. The success formula working again, no doubt, the coach himself have alluded to a dynasty in the making.

Flash forward to Nov. 24 and the championship game at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Connecticut and a total breakdown against North Carolina in the second half. The Cardinals looking out of sorts, suddenly very ordinary, dominated on offense and defense.

Similar letdowns against old rivals Kentucky, Memphis and Cincinnati, having lost all four games against the few ranked teams on the schedule, the ones that mattered the most to the program and fans, losses that take any credibility away from a 17-4 won-lost record.

He sounded frustrated and discouraged during the press conference following the loss to Cincinnati, all but admitting incompetence at the center spot, bemoaning the decisions of key players at crucial points  in games, knowing the development process takes time, and that the season is already entering the stretch.

Pitino has been here before, been in worse situations, turning things around, doing the incredulous, getting less talented teams in Final Fours. He will exhaust every conceivable idea, every motivational tool at his disposal, to get the truck headed in the right direction.

That may be what Pitino does best, in fact, and why no one is eliminating Louisville as a serious contender in March. His team has been humbled, but Pitino is hungry again.

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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.