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Pitino A True Hall of Famer

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

 

Rick Pitino celebrates winning his second National Championship.

For Rick Pitino, I guess you could say things have come full circle.

The head coach of the Louisville Cardinals just led his team to the National Championship Monday night becoming the first coach in history to lead two different programs to the National Title.

But on the same day that Pitino led his team to the championship, he also learned that he would be one of 12 people inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts this September.

It’s somewhat ironic that Pitino will return to Western Massachusetts to be enshrined, because many of the seeds of his spectacular career were sewn in the Bay State and right here in Providence.

As a young high school student from Long Island, Pitino decided to attend UMass-Amherst where he was a standout guard for Jack Leaman and the Minutemen from 1970-1974.

When Pitino left UMass, his 329 career assists ranked him second all-time in that category in program history. That total has since been pushed down to 11th on the all-time list.

But Pitino’s four years in Amherst aren’t his only tie to the state of Massachusetts. His illustrious career as a head coach started at Boston University where he coached the Terriers men’s basketball program from 1978-1983. He led the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 24 years.

Pitino's PC days

After serving as an assistant coach for the New York Knicks in the NBA from 1983-1985, Pitino came to Providence to coach the Friars.

In just two short years, Pitino took PC fans on a magical ride all the way to the Final Four where they eventually lost to Syracuse in the national semifinals.

That great and unexpected run by PC helped land Pitino the head coaching gig for the Knicks where he coached for two seasons from 1987-1989.

From there it was back to the college game and Kentucky where he would resurrect a Kentucky program that was in disarray eventually leading them to the National Championship in 1996.

The following year, Pitino would head back to New England and the NBA to try another reclamation project. He would try to restore pride to the Boston Celtics franchise.

Unfortunately, he was unable to work his magic with the Celtics from 1997-2001 for a couple of reasons.

First, Pitino and the Celtics were very unlucky in the 1997 NBA Draft Lottery when the ping pong balls didn’t bounce their way. Despite having the best chance to secure the top overall pick, it was San Antonio who got it allowing them the right to draft star center Tim Duncan.

Pitino's days with the Celtics were a struggle

What followed were some very good draft picks by Pitino and the Celtics. Players like Chauncey Bullups, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson were all drafted on Pitnino’s watch. However, his impatience for wanting to turn the franchise around led to him getting rid of some of those star players and it never worked for Pitino in Boston which is why he headed back to the college game and the University of Louisville in 2001.

While his time as president and head coach of the Boston Celtics represents the only blemish on his otherwise stellar basketball coaching resume’, he does deserve the benefit of the doubt.

First, had Pitino and the Celtics landed Duncan, he would have likely coached the Celtics to multiple championships and may still be in Boston today.

Secondly, his overwhelming success at every other stop makes him a cinch for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
 

 

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