Pitino left the New York Knicks, his lifelong dream job, after a season in which he took his NBA team to a conference title and went 52-30 during the regular season. On that team, he had future NBA Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing and a strong nucleus of players. He left all of it to come to a college program that was restricted in recruiting, limited in scholarships, unable to participate in any post season play, and unable to be televised. Essentially, it was a program on life support.
But against all odds, Pitino brought his revolutionary basketball style to the Bluegrass State along with a new staff, new expectations, new vigor and a new recruit by the name of Jamal Mashburn. He put Kentucky back on the map and in the preseason top 10 in just two seasons. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is why I am going to ease up on Rick Pitino. Without him, Kentucky may have never won the next three titles. True, he only won one of those championships, but he laid the foundation for titles seven and eight. He made Kentucky a destination school again; and now, John Calipari is continuing the groundbreaking excellence that his former mentor started two decades ago.
Pitino rubs us all the wrong way by making statements about Kentucky fans being maniacs and jumping off of bridges when the Wildcats lose to the Cardinals. He still needs to be called out for these ludicrous remarks. But do we really need to pick apart everything he says? Is he really worthy of almost villainous disdain? Forget his personal transgressions, all he is, is a basketball coach for another school.