NCAA BK

Sad truth: Pitino wins, all's forgotten

Image: Louisville coach Rick Pitino (© Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports/Photos)
Scandal-scarred Rick Pitino is on cusp of seventh Final Four trip.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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INDIANAPOLIS

Now that the sports world has moved on from the outrageous Nike ad with Tiger Woods and “Winning Takes Care of Everything’’ — suggesting that his personal issues and porn-star-to-pancake waitress infidelities are wiped away simply because he’s winning again — we move on to the NCAA tournament.

Rick Pitino modestly excluded himself Thursday when talking about the coaching legends at the NCAA regional this weekend in Indianapolis. It’s Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo and Pitino all in one place. (No offense to the fourth coach, Dana Somethingorother.) He talked about their longevity of excellence.

So someone asked Pitino about his own longevity, through changing times.

“The kids have not changed,’’ he said, repeating something Bobby Knight had told him. “This team I’m coaching reminds me so much of the first team I coached at (Kentucky), and the '87 team I coached at Providence ...

“What’s changed dramatically are the parents. Not as much discipline in their lives. A lot of love , but not as much discipline. I don’t mean that as bad parenting ...’’

I was buying in. And then it hit me: Wasn’t this the guy who was having sex with a stranger on a table in a restaurant a few years ago? He also took away Red Auerbach’s honorary title at the Celtics.

How in the hell has Pitino pulled this off? He has overcome incredible failure, personal humiliation and general personality shortcomings to become the sage of college basketball? He sounded like the wise old conscience of the game?

Winning Takes Care of Everything. Pitino is every bit the same ad for that that Woods is.

After Woods moved back to No. 1 in the world rankings this week, Nike claimed its ad wasn’t even talking about Tiger's personal problems. In other words: Nike either lied or missed the obvious.

I’m going with lied.

While I never thought it was any of our business who Woods hooked up with, plenty of people felt that it wasn’t right to say that winning golf tournaments could wipe away all he had done behind the back of his ex-wife Elin Nordegren.

It was sending the outrageous message to athletes that they can do whatever they want as long as they win.

Outrageous.

Pitino cheated on his wife, too, and then was so angry at the coverage of it in August 2009 that he called a press conference to chastise the media for not considering that his wife was going through a hard time because the other woman was blackmailing him.

Yes, it was the blackmail that led to Pitino’s wife’s hardships, not Pitino’s actions.

Anyway, Pitino has coached six Final Four teams, and probably will get No. 7 next week. Louisville has to beat Oregon on Friday, and then the winner of Duke-Michigan State on Sunday.

Winning does it. Fixes everything. Ask Kobe Bryant. He bought his wife that giant rock and put it on her finger for forgiveness, but didn’t get public forgiveness until he won gold with the U.S. team in the Olympics.

No, we haven’t moved on from that Nike ad. We live it. Nike’s just the first one to sell it that way so blatantly.

I’m not saying that winning should have anything to do with social redemption. Just that it does. Maybe the Nike ad celebrated that fact — a shortcoming in us — a little too much.

winningest coaches

TOP OF THE HEAP

Mike Krzyzewski leads a storied group on college hoops' all-time win list.

Pitino is one of the best coaches in the history of college basketball. So he can sit up on the podium as if he’s on the Mount Rushmore of college coaches, and lay out great old stories and wisdom.

Someone told Pitino that Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel says great things about him.

“I’ve had over 25 assistant coaches go on to coach in college and professionals (at the head-coaching level), and they’re great friends of mine,’’ Pitino said. “And I love following every one of them. But Frank’s a special case, because he wrote me a letter and said he followed me from the Five-Star Basketball Camp, and he’d like to come work for me.

“He was a high-school kid at the time. ... He moved from manager to a GA (grad assistant) to a video guy, traveled with me with the Celtics. And now I look back on that letter today; he’s doing an unbelievable job with the Indiana Pacers. Couldn’t be more proud.’’

Like I said, I was buying it. I am buying in. He kept drawing me in with his stories. He is that great of a coach. For years people thought of his car-salesman personality and personal issues and sort of didn’t realize that he’s a genius coach.

Now, winning has taken care of everything.

Mad coaches

FACE OFF

The many expressions of the NCAA tournament coaches.

He mentioned the Celtics? He was a colossal failure with the Celtics. His ego was so massive that he wanted to be above even the Celtics grand history and legends. So he removed Auerbach’s title of team president. Then, he nearly buried the franchise with his mishandling of, basically, every detail.

This guy has been about greed, self-absorption and an inability to fight back temptation.

Now he’s a guru.

Last year, he got Louisville to the Final Four without any evident NBA-caliber players. Now he has the talent, though he says his players aren’t playing for spots in the NBA; they’re playing for Louisville.

Pitino has had a tendency through his career to charm everyone to death before burning all bridges. Never again.

He has won too much.
 

Tagged: Louisville, Indiana

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