Rick Pitino is beaming as he strides into the press conference for the Maker’s Mark bottle announcement, obviously still ecstatic from his University of Louisville basketball team’s monumental win in the Georgia Dome just eight weeks ago. Having won two national championships now, he seems equally excited about the future of the program.
The coach is there to express his appreciation to Maker’s Mark and to dip several bottles of the latest Rick Pitino design into a boiling container of black wax, the first of 12,600 bottles that will go on sale at beverage stores through the state on Friday, signing one of the bottles. “I done a couple of bottles now for Maker’s Mark,” he said. “The other one was a different color.”
The special design will help underwrite the UofL Academic Center of Excellence, an $8 million state-of-the-art facility adjacent to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. To date, more than $4 million has been pledged toward the center, according to Mark Jurich, associate athletic director.
Pitino also answered questions on other topics:
- He assumes reserve center Zach Price is gone after Price recently tweeted on his Twitter account that he may be transferring. Pitino said his players are not allowed to tweet. They haven’t spoken in several weeks.
- Russ Smith will be playing in Spain with a touring basketball team this summer. Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell was competing for spots on U.S. national teams. He doesn’t his players participating in pickup games. One on one is okay.
- He has written letters of support for Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva to all general managers in the NBA about their work ethic, something he has never done for former players.
- He is extremely excited about the outlook for his 2013-14 team, believing with the newcomers and returning players they can make up for the losses of Siva and Dieng.
- He’s really looking forward to seeing Mangok Mathiang in a structured environment. “He’s a gifted athlete,” he added.
- His level of interest in horse racing has dropped considerably after the show of Golden Cents in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, probably won’t be going to New York for the Belmont Stakes.
An autographing event will be held June 13th at the KFC Yum! Center at 5 p.m. Tickets for that event are $1 per bottle signing and be purchased starting June 10th at 3 p.m. at http://louisville-events.cbscollegestore.com.