INDIANAPOLIS — After a late Kentucky rally sunk Louisville and ended the Cardinals attempt to repeat as national champions Friday night, Louisville coach Rick Pitino lamented "the end of an era" for his program.
He specifically named three senior starters — Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Stephan Van Treese — and sophomore Montrezl Harrell, who’s expected to enter the NBA Draft.
He said nothing of his own future, even when asked directly about it.
"I’m thinking about my players," he said. "I’m not thinking about myself."
Pitino, 61, has been at Louisville since 2001.
The Cardinals also went to the Final Four in 2012, losing to Kentucky. They led Friday night’s game by 13 points early and by 7 in the final five minutes before the Wildcats rallied to advance to Sunday’s Midwest Regional semifinal.
"I told our guys we probably beat ourselves a little bit down the stretch," Pitino said after Friday’s game. "But how can any of us complain with the run we’ve been on? We celebrated an awful lot the last three years…with back to back Final Fours and now a Sweet 16.
"We don’t like losing to Kentucky certainly, but you’ve got to give them credit. We try to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. We’re going to be very gracious in this defeat because we’ve had a lot of celebrations, and it’s the end of an era for us, for a lot of us. So it’s something that we’re certainly going to miss."