Pitino Goes for No. 500

Seems like yesterday local TV news helicopters were tracking Rick Pitino from the Clark County Airport in Southern Indiana on his way to becoming the University of Louisville basketball coach. The surprising hire by Tom Jurich would create joy in Louisville, but sadness, even anger, elsewhere in the state.

Since becoming U of L coach in 2001, Pitino has compiled a 154-59 record, including four NCAA tournament appearances, among them one trip to the Final Four. He has embraced the university in many ways, including support for a dorm to honor the memory of his friend Billy Minardi. The coach has said often that he plans to retire here.

Pitino now has an overall 499-183 won-loss record. Now he is eyeing his 500 victory, another significant milestone in a remarkable career. The coach may briefly acknowledge No. 500 but he will move on quickly. Pitino continues to set new goals for himself and the people who surround him, and his goals are very high for the U of L basketball program.

Pitino The Pessimist

Good thing Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino never became a doctor; he’s not very good at analyzing injuries. He would have been better as a psychiatrist because he likes to mess with people’s heads. He is wrong so often on diagnosing injuries that he has to be doing it for motivational purposes.

Shortly after Palacios was injured, Pitino proclaimed that he was thinking seriously about red shirting the 6-foot-8, 250-pound senior. He reminded fans that Juan is a slow healer and has had almost every possible injury in his college career.

Surprise. The latest word is that Palacios showed up for practice Thursday, moving around for about 35 minutes. No heavy duty action. Primarily shooting around. Must be getting better. You think?

Fans were somewhat concerned when David Padgett collided with another player in the Jackson State game. Pitino first said it was a minor injury, and fans breathed a collective sigh of relief. Then less than 24 hours later, Pitino shocked the Cardinal world with the pronouncement that Padgett had busted his knee cap and that his career was most likely finished.

Now we hear from David that he has always healed quickly, and that he expects to be ready by January — despite Pitino’s public pronouncements to the contrary. Padgett is confident, Pitino is doubtful.

The only thing certain is that David Padgett intends to return. Fans can only hope that Dr. Pitino is wrong again.

Catching Up …

Francisco Garcia: Has started in six of 17 games for the Sacramento Kings, averaging 12.7 points, 3.5 rebounds. and 26.1 minutes per game, with a shooting percentage of 47.4% from the field. The Kings are in fourth place in the Pacific Divison of the NBA Western Conference with a 7-10 won-loss record.

Jerry Eaves: Coaching North Carolina A&T to a 4-4 record after pulling a shocking 96-91 win over DePaul on the Blue Devils’ home court in Chicago. His team has lost to the likes of Pittsburgh, Tennessee and St. Louis while preparing for Mid-East Athletic Conference competition.

Wiley Brown: Coaching Indiana University-Southeast team to a 4-4 record, most recently losing a 96-91 double overtime game to Brescia University of Owensboro on Tuesday.

Kevin Willard: His Iona College team ended a 29-game losing streak that extended over two seasons when the Gaels defeated Delaware 57-52 last Friday, improving their record to 1-7 on the season. The Gaels were 1-29 last year.

Scott Davenport: His Bellarmine University team nearly cracked the National Association of Basketball Coaches Top 25 poll this week. The Knights, with a 6-1 record, were 27th in the voting.

Coaching Transitions & Instant Gratification

Difficult to ignore, all the consternation going on over in Lexington where two players have left the UK squad less than four weeks into the basketball season. More defections may be on the way. The team is off to a less-than-glorious start, and Cat fans are becoming increasingly irritated.

The topic is relevant here for a couple of reasons. First, because so many people in Louisville are watching the turmoil closely. Second and more important, it is another reminder of the challenges that often accompany the ushering in of a new era, also known as a coaching transition.

Many outstanding athletes, idolized much of their young lives, have difficulties adjusting to new ways of doing things. They don’t take kindly to being criticized or having their weakness exposed. When they’ve been successful doing things one way, why should they be expected to change?

People have trouble acknowledging that different approaches can sometimes lead to equal or greater success, resisting or rejecting new ways of doing things. The results are magnified when you’re dealing with so-called super stars.

The same can be said of fan bases. New coach comes in, does things differently, doesn’t have immediate success, and doesn’t communicate the challenges very well. Predictably, many disappointed fans get angry, start pointing fingers.

This scenario was all too familiar to U of L fans during a disappointing football season. Patience became a rare commodity after years of non-stop winning. Once loyal supporters become detractors, ripping even the most respected administrators. Mistakes are magnified, leading to other miscues, losses on the playing field and dismissals of assistants.

Losing is just not acceptable in an age of instant gratification. It’s even more difficult for the new guy on the block. What goes around comes around and it has arrived center stage in Lexington.

Card Fan Christmas Tips

Time to get serious about holiday shopping. Okay, or to just start thinking about it for the procrastinators. Over the next couple of weeks, watch for some suggestions. Buy or receive, these will be great gifts for Card fans.

The U of L Scoreboard Clock was introduced last year. Look for it to catch on with fans this time around. Displaying the time, temperature and date, the 12 x 19-inch clock is ideal for the fanatic’s office, game room, bar or family room. Also weatherproof for outdoor use. It’s available at Cardboard Heroes or the Neutral Zone for about $99. Or you can get it from Sports ‘n Chips for $89.95.

If you have suggestions, pass them along for posting here.