I really wish I could use the acronym for laughing out loud in this publication, because that is exactly what I’m doing at the moment thinking about ‘poor ole’ Rick Pitino. What a year for the ex-Kentucky coach and longtime Cardinal leader. All of the summer allegations surrounding Pitino’s involvement in the recruitment of players via unsavory practices put a big dent in his reputation. Now he loses yet another one to Calipari, at Rupp, making the “coach rivalry record,” extend to 1-8 in favor of Calipari. Look up “unstoppable fall to rock bottom,” and you will see a picture of Pitino.
The grim reality cloud has attached itself to Pitino and is pouring on the heartache. The stress and unrelenting weight of his life is beginning to add some grey to the hair of Richard Andrew Pitino, and UK fans couldn’t be happier.
Coach Cal has had his fair share of controversy throughout his coaching career but took his lesson on the chin and moved forward. Pitino appears to be hiding from his actions and it is creating a negative mystique around his legacy. Is he the coach we all thought he was?
After the Cardinals tough loss to the Cats this weekend all of the hurt and aggravation simmering inside Pitino burst into action as the high standing collegiate coach seemed to flip UK fans “the finger.” Yes, you read that right, Pitino appeared to give the middle finger salute, flipped the bird, flipped the bone. He was being heckled by the crowd; he just couldn’t take it anymore and expressed his sentiment to the Big Blue Nation (BBN). Louisville entered the contest ranked No. 12 and Kentucky entered the game at No. 12 and the Cats won the game by a final score of 75-73.
Now I’m sure we, the BBN, can have some class and express our feelings of empathy toward the situation. Who hasn’t let emotions get the better of them and reacted in a classless way. The part that creates the divide between your normal Kentucky sports fan and Richard Andrew Pitino is he is definitely held to a higher standard. Suppose Jim the plumber happens to have one too many “brewsky’s” before the game and has a lapse of judgement as legendary coach Pitino walks by him on the way to the locker room. Also suppose that Jim says some derogatory phrase toward coach Pitino. You can guarantee no one will mention it on Sports Center the next day. But, if Richard Andrew Pitino retaliates to the words, then we have a problem and a multitude of sports conversations for the rest of the Millennium.
Let’s examine the facts before we jump to any rash conclusions. We are, of course, people who don’t always practice class but ultimately respect it here at the BBN. There is a video making the rounds of the sports word, taken by a cell phone, that allegedly shows Richard Andrew Pitino raising his hand towards the crowd and then a very blurry, skin colored, protrusion enters frame. Pitino denied the allegations; that he raised his middle finger, and instead said he held up his index finger in suggestion the Louisville is Number One. This response has created a media storm surrounding Pitino and I don’t think UK sympathizers are going to let it slide. Considering all of the eye-witness reports say it was the middle finger.
Now that we know there is a video of Pitino making some kind of gesture towards the UK crowd and now that he has admitted to making a gesture then we are stuck with the dilemma of was it the index finger or the middle finger? I will leave that call up to you the reader. I suggest looking up the video clip yourself.
I like to believe that it was in fact an obscene gesture because I, like many others, have been waiting patiently to see Pitino fall from grace since he left coaching at UK for the NBA. Then his return to collegiate coaching at the worst possible place he could have coached at. That act, to me, was the first middle finger and I have not forgotten. I was young when it happened but I knew the adults were mad and I adopted that angst as my own.
Now, here we are again, letting the only coach to ever take three separate collegiate programs to the National Championship act like BBN didn’t have a big part in that. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “No respect!” Pitino does have a very impressive pedigree on paper. He has taken Kentucky, Providence, and Louisville to the National Championship game and won. He has coached two separate NBA teams with decent results. But, it was hard to see his departure from Kentucky as anything less than a search for something better. Forgive me for being biased, but there is nothing better than BBN, Rick! It looks like the universal force known as “Karma” has come to collect its due.
If the recruitment scandal doesn’t bury Pitino, then this new found attitude will surely be a personified shovel to help dig him deeper. Pitino also stayed away from the post-game press conference. Only speculation can link that with his gesture.
So let’s flip it around here. Let’s pretend that Calipari had done what Pitino did. With the constant spotlight that follows Calipari, he would be locked up in the stocks in front of the capital. Calipari should be commended for handling the pressure and stress as well as he has. Recently a unknown NBA scout referred to freshman forward, Skal Labissiere, as a fraud. Coach Cal quickly responded appropriately with nothing but support for his young player. The truth, Skal has not been playing that great this early in the season, but Cal knew that a player as young as Labrissiere was not ready for criticism at that high of a level and he shouldered that load. Cal is a player’s first type of coach, and should be commended for that.
Who knows what will come of all this controversy surrounding Pitino? He may erupt in a Donald Trump style-fit one day in front of cameras; in complete surrender to the overpowering force that he has lost. It happens sometimes in the world of competitive sports. Look at the fiasco that was Bobby Knight. If Pitino doesn’t dig a hole deep enough to get fired then I see some chair throwing behavior coming in his future. Everyone makes mistakes in life but owning up to them is the key. Pitino seems to be shying far away from the high road these days.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)