Jurich decision not to fire Pitino costly for Louisville athletics

Interim President Greg Postel (at podium) and Board Chairman J. David Grissom (at left) at press conference on suspensions. (Charlie Springer photo).

The last place any University of Louisville supporter wanted to be on Wednesday was at a press conference on campus announcing the suspensions of Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino. The unbelievable, never-ending nightmare had finally come to this.

Tom Jurich says he’s willing to stay on at the University of Louisville.

There was Interim President Greg Postel at the podium confirming the worst possible news for UofL athletics, that Jurich was no longer in charge, that he was on paid suspension until the next board meeting on Oct. 18th. That Pitino was also suspended but without pay until the same date.

With those announcements, UofL athletics probably ended one era and entered another.  The new era getting off to a shaky start with the program’s clouded by an appeal for mercy to the NCAA and the beginning of an even more serious investigation involving both the NCAA and the Justice Department.

Jurich has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now.

Jurich, who had reportedly refused to fire Pitino over the past several weeks, met with Postel earlier in the morning. Whether he was given another opportunity to fire his friend may never be known but the meeting lasted only seven minutes.

Members of the Board of Trustees may have believed having the University involved in a Justice Department investigation was far too serious to ignore. Or they concluded that a second set of NCAA allegations required a clean sweep of both the athletic administration and the basketball program.

At any rate, still another solemn, dark day in University of Louisville history with no one, including we suspect the members of the board of trustees, having a clue about what happens next. Difficult to fault the leadership for acting so decisively, with the FBI reportedly already on campus interviewing members of the basketball staff, as Postel acknowledged during the press conference.

The saddest part of all of this is that most fans may never have a chance to thank Tom Jurich for all he accomplished at the University of Louisville. Over two decades, he was able to transform bits and pieces of hopes and dreams into some incredible realities in the form of physical facilities, incredible successes on the field, and making Louisville competitive in every single sport.

Dreams that many fans didn’t dare verbalize before his arrival in 1997 became commonplace occurrences during his tenure, raising through three different conferences, one new or renovated facility after the other, with successes in both men’s and women’s sports, and in programs led by some of the best coaches available.

Jurich held out some hope that he would return, issuing the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“For the last 20 years, I have dedicated my life to the University of Louisville. Disappointment does not even come close to describing my feelings surrounding the allegation that any member of the UofL basketball staff could be involved in the criminal conduct announced yesterday. My intent has always been to run every athletic program at the University in an honest and compliant manner. It is heartbreaking to me that the alleged intentional and secret criminal acts can bring such harm to our school.

“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans. I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees following their meeting on October 19th.”

It is a well-worded statement, with all kinds of nuances, possibly for legal reasons to protect his financial interest. Some clinging to hope that he is sincere about wanting to stick around, imaging how many more things he could accomplish for the University.

Whether he could turn the board is a very long shot, of course, considering that he never seemed to seriously entertain any notions of firing Pitino. He has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now. The possibility that he might be willing to tackle them would say much about Tom Jurich’s character and his love for UofL.

Jake Snider’s first homer powers Louisville past Radford

Reliever Sam Bordner slammed the door on Radford after the Highlanders tied the score at 6-6 in the sixth inning. He would give no hits or runs while striking out six batters (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Kade McClure almost made it through the sixth inning before being lifted (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Kade McClure having problems again, providing still more drama in the University of Louisville’s opening game in the NCAA Regional at Jim Patterson Stadium.

McClure struggling to get anybody out, loading the bases in the fourth inning against Radford University.  A double, a walk and a hit batsman, followed by a grand slam by Adam Whitacre, slashing a six-run Louisville lead to four runs. Whitacre would tap McClure again two innings later for a two-run triple, tying the score at 6-6.

Jake Snider breaks out with two hits and three runs batted in.

It was the night Jake Snider would emerge from obscurity, coming through with the first home run of his college career, a two-run blast over right centerfield to put UofL ahead to stay in an 11-6 before a crowd of 3,763. Nice to have some production from the ninth spot in the batting order for a change. 

It has taken a while for Snider to get going but Dan McDonnell was not surprised. “Snider has got one of those swings,” said the UofL coach. “He’s going to be a phenomenal hitter.”

Sam Bordner, a 6-foot-6 right hander, relieving McClure with two on and two outs in the sixth inning. He would quickly shut down the Highlanders, getting six strikeouts while allowing no hits the rest of the way.

Bordner getting better at just the right time, improving his won-lost record to 2-0 and lowering his earned run average to .50.  Turning the off button on the drama, ensuring Louisville advances another day in the NCAA.

Dan McDonnell keeps bouncing back, eyeing ultimate breakthrough

How many times can a season end? 

Well, there’s the regular season, which ended with three straight losses for the University of Louisville baseball team. Then there is the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, concluding with still another loss to Florida State.

Two weeks of losing after four weeks of winning 15 games in a row. There were times when it was tempting to wonder whether they would lose again. It would take a former UofL assistant now coaching at Indiana University to end the winning streak.

Here we go with the post season again. UofL selected as the No. 7 seed nationally, hosting its fifth consecutive regional tournament. The way this usually goes is the Cardinals rebound to win the regional only to lose in the last game of the super regional.

Not always, of course, not with Louisville having participated in the College World Series in 2007,  2013 and 2014. But often enough, with the Cardinals being eliminated the past two seasons on heartbreaking home run blasts late in the final game.

The pain of those losses is compounded by tears on Coach Dan McDonnell’s face during the post-game press conferences. A good man, a great coach, with another good team, on the cusp, four or five games away from a  national championship. Only to be thwarted again. 

Following a 47-10 season during which his team was ranked second nationally most of the year, McDonnell has still another shot at getting to the College World Series again, of competing for a championship. 

That’s what it’s all about for McDonnell. He has once again put UofL into a position to contend. Louisville is, in fact, a perennial contender.

Dan McDonnell is way overdue. Ready for the ultimate breakthrough, and he’ll keep coming back until he makes it happen.

Link: Printable Regional Bracket

Alert: UofL freshman at NCAA women’s golf championship

Olivia Cason is in the hunt. (UofL photo)
Olivia Cason is in the hunt. (UofL photo)

Olivia Cason is only a freshman on the University of Louisville women’s golf team but she’s already competing on a national stage.

Cason journeyed to Eugene, Oregon this week where she will participate in the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship, starting on Friday at the Eugene Country Club. She will tee off at 11:25 a.m. Louisville time.

The Owensboro native is the third student-athlete in UofL program history to qualify as an individual and one of 12 participating in the three-day event. She will play 18 holes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Continue reading “Alert: UofL freshman at NCAA women’s golf championship”

Louisville ahead of schedule, but Michigan State is better

Eerily similar to the back and forth between the Louisville and Michigan State basketball teams in the NCAA regional final last season, the Spartans prevailing again, this time 71-67 in Lansing.

Michigan State, remember, outlasted UofL 76-70 in overtime in March, denying the Cardinals what would have been a surprising return to the Final Four.

Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino

Making this team competitive was supposed to consume most of the season but UofL is ahead of schedule, already a force to be reckoned in early December. The Cardinals will get better, it’s inevitable, all Rick Piitno teams do as the season continues.

Pitino piecing together another team almost from scratch to take this year’s third-ranked MSU to the wire again. More testament to his Hall of Fame coaching abilities. Adding Damion Lee and Trey Lewis for scoring punch, squeezing some muscle and hustle from his assortment of awkward big guys, refusing to concede anything to anybody.

Count on freshmen like Donovan Mitchell to learn not to foul the other team’s leading free throw shooter in the final minute, UofL conceding six of six free throws to him in the final minute. Better to deny him the ball.

Expect Anas Mahmoud, if he’s still playing that late in the game, to stay in the face of three-point shooters like Bryan Forbes, he who was connecting on five of nine tries beyond the arc. Better still, watch for players like Deng Adel and Raymond Spalding to be there instead applying the defense. Where was Spalding in this one, playing only six minutes? The injured Adel was unavailable.

Lee and Lewis will never be bashful when it comes to shooting, thriving on their time in the national spotlight, collecting 23 and 21 points, respectively. Donovan Mitchell will inevitably contribute more than his latest production of six points — if his defense earns him more playing time. Same for Spalding but he, too, had best get with it on defense. Sooner the better.

The big guys, Chinanu Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang, Mahmoud, even Matz Stockman, well, at least one or two of them have to get better. They have already but there wasn’t much evidence in this game. Small steps forward for the guys in the big shoes could make a major difference.

This UofL team is already further along than anyone thought it would be, having significantly raised expectations. This early test against Michigan State provides a blueprint for more dramatic progress in the weeks and months ahead. A good team will only get better, Pitino will see to that.