In an epic case of “what took you so long,” University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino has been selected to become a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. ESPN cites a source close to the voting that says that Coach P, as his players refer to him, will enter the Hall in his second year as a finalist.
The Hall of Fame class will be officially announced on Monday before the national championship game which Pitino’s Louisville squad could be a part of. First the Cards have to get past Saturday’s game with Wichita State.
As the only coach to take three different teams to the Final Four and winning the whole thing in 1996 with Kentucky, you have to wonder why he didn’t make it last year. Also of note, he’s only the second coach to take different teams to back-to-back Final Four appearances. He did that with Kentucky and now Louisville.
Earlier in his career he took Billy Donovan and Providence to the national semifinals in 1987. Donovan is now head coach at Florida.
In 2005, 2012 and again this year, Pitino led the Louisville Cardinals to the Final Four. And this years team has a good chance to cut down the nets in Atlanta. Coach P’s tenure at Louisville is arguably the most successful stint in his career.
It’s also the longest time he’s coached one team. Though he was a hot commodity when he came to the Cards, he had big shoes to fill because he followed another Hall of Fame coach in Denny Crum. Louisville fans were used to success and Pitino had to deliver. And he did.
Of course, there are those that argue that University of Kentucky head man John Calipari has taken three teams to the Final Four, but the NCAA vacated the runs of his Massachusetts and Memphis teams because of rules violations. No Pitino college team has ever had even the whiff of on-court scandal. Karen Sypher is a discussion for another time.
As a coach that’s won 662 games in college (308 of those at Louisville), the question of why it took so long gets larger. 6 years of coaching at the NBA level loom in the discussion, as well.
However, it looks like the Hall will correct the oversight this year. Pitino has said previously that he doesn’t think about being elected but would be honored if it happened. Here comes his honor.
Photo: Louisville.com/Tim Girton