By Andrew Melnykovich

Has University of Louisville coach Rick Pitino earned a place in either the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame or the larger Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?

Rick Pitino

His coaching credentials would suggest that he has: he’s the only coach to take three different schools to the NCAA Final Four, he has a total of five Final Four appearances (none of them vacated, by the way), one NCAA title, an overall record of 586-222 as of today, and a superlative record of producing assistant coaches who do well running their own programs and who have won three championships of their own.

That is a record that compares favorably to any of the following of his coaching contemporaries, all of whom are in both basketball halls: Lou Carnesecca, John Chaney, Lute Olsen and Roy Williams. They have two titles and 12 Final Fours to their names – together – and one of the titles and six of the Final Fours belong to Olsen.

Surely, Pitino’s two brief and generally mediocre ventures into the NBA should not be disqualifying. Nor should his job switches – Larry Brown, aka “Mr. Peripatetic,” is in both HOFs.

Well, if what Pitino’s done on the hardwood isn’t enough, is it that he’s done too much of something else off the hardwood? And should bad behavior (on or off the field of play) even be a factor?

A look at other Halls of Fame suggests the answer to that is generally a resounding NO.

Let’s start with the oldest – the one in Cooperstown. It has admitted legendary carousers (Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, to name just two of many) and generally despicable human beings (Ty Cobb). Even a guy (Juan Marichal) who took a bat to head of another player, and just this year, a player whose best-known play was spitting at an umpire.

And there’s even a 314-game winner whose money pitch was illegal (Gaylord Perry.) About the only things that can keep a top-flight player out of baseball’s HOF is a ban from baseball (Pete Rose) or cheating of the pharmaceutical kind (Mark McGwire, etc).

The professional football HOF explicitly instructs voters to ignore off-the-field stuff. Otherwise, Lawrence Taylor might not be a member.

In contrast, the college football HOF states that inductees must have been good citizens and upheld the ideals of college football. That’s kept Taylor from joining its 829 members, but the gambling transgressions of Paul Hornung and Alex Karras have been forgiven. So too have the NCAA violations that occurred under the regimes of Pat Dye and Barry Switzer, among others, and the foul temper of Woody Hayes.

Finally – and most pertinently – sordid behavior is clearly not a disqualifier from either basketball HOF. Two words: Wilt Chamberlain.

So it’s pretty obvious that you do not have to be an altar boy (which Pitino has not been) to get into a Hall of Fame, basketball’s included.

Maybe the question should be: Why, after nine years of eligibility, isn’t Rick Pitino in either basketball Hall of Fame? To that one, we have no answer.

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2 thoughts on “Rick Pitino to the Hall of Fame?”
  1. Pitino may not be in his prime with his teams right now. When you look at all his achievements as you have listed – not to mention the opportunities he has given to players I think he qualifies.No, he is not a saint. I really think his latest escapades have altered the public view of him. I mean would you want to sit through a motivational talk with him. No! thanks.
    Still he has given a lot to basketball.Well – Ooh, I might be talking myself out of this one.hhmmm!

  2. Maybe they’re just waiting to see how he finishes his career. If they made his plaque now it would say 1 championship. I’d hat for them to have to remake it in couple of years after he adds championship 2 and 3! 🙂

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