Rick Pitino tinkering with who knows what, employing all kinds of player combinations, searching for answers.
For much of the game, the coach remaining seated, resting his chin on his clasped hands, saving most of his animated discussions for Russ Smith.
Russ, by the way, helped the Hall of Fame coach set the starting lineup, urging Pitino to start Terry Rozier over himself after a bad practice. Smith, the substitute, would have 11 assists, 10 points,six rebounds, a block and three steals.
Pitino may have appeared bored on the bench, understandable with the University of Louisville cruising to 13-2 over Missouri-Kansas City en route to a 90-62 win. Or maybe he was frustrated, complaining about mediocrity after the game. Doubtful on both counts, Pitino, with that one-day contract, constantly analyzing every move, every player, looking down the schedule to tougher opponents.
Time will tell whether Pitino was finding any solutions, more likely confirming some weaknesses. Like his team constantly getting beat off the dribble by a team with a 1-6 record, a team hitting 46% of its shots, including five three-pointers. The high pick-and-roll resulting in too many easy baskets for the opposition.
The lack of switching and shot blocking by UofL’s other big men real concerns for the coach, one block between Mangok Mathiang, Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese combined. Pitino said they are affected by the new rules, playing timid, fearful of quick whistles.
“That’s going to change, starting tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve got plenty of depth, and we’ve got to get after them.”
Watch for Chane Behanan to reclaim his starting position soon, coming through with 11 rebounds, 11 points, a block and a couple of steals. “I thought Chane was the only one out there who was doing the right thing offensively and defensively,” he said.
The coach clearly wants his team to become much more aggressive on defense, a posture that will put him in a position of determining the true strength of his team’s depth. He has the pieces, just has to get them to fit.