Pitino Returns To Perturbed Providence

Providence College, a place full of happy memories for Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, is not Happy Valley these days. They held special ceremonies honoring Pitino on his last visit. Some Friar fans this time want to unceremoniously dump Tim Welch, the current PC coach.

Welch has been backed into a corner by the fans and local media, as well as the Providence administration. Welch’s pre-game introduction is usually accompanied by boos and calls for his job. His contract extension is very much in doubt.

Welch has coached his team to two NCAA tournaments and made three NIT appearances in nine years. However, his current team is struggling with a 13-11 won-lost record and 4-8 conference mark. Providence Journal sportswriter Bill Reynolds recently observed:

Booing Welsh became the new parlor game late last year when his name was announced before games, a smattering of discontent. Saturday night it bordered on becoming ugly. So what is going on here? I suspect it’s several things.

At the most obvious, it’s the fact that the Friars are not as good as the fans want them to be. The basketball world has changed. Not only is the Big East a monster of a league that takes few prisoners, it’s a league with an unofficial tier system. The top teams are trying to get to the Final Four and win the national championship. The Friars are trying to get to the NCAA Tournament once every three or four years and save the coach’s job.

Despite the won-lost record, the Friars have been impressive at times, posting wins over UConn and Arkansas. They are led by Jeff Xavier, a 6-1 point guard, averaging 12 points per game and hitting 37% of his three-point shots.

Saturday’s game has been declared a “black out” game, with fans being encouraged to wear black clothing — not good symbolism for their current coach.

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.