Saturday, March 31, 2012

Humility, Regret and Rick Pitino

Remember the long way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Kentucky is the only surviving team among my picks for the Final Four, and I picked them to win it all. But tonight I will be rooting for Louisville.

Partly that’s because of my loyalty to the Big East, which goes back to Dave Gavitt, and the years that the Big East was primarily a basketball conference competing (and beating) bigger conferences and bigger schools. And partly it’s because of what Rick Pitino did with Providence College twenty-five years ago.

It doesn’t really make much sense. The Big East of today bears little resemblance of the conference Dave Gavitt put together. And soon they will add Boise State, just to stamp out any lingering thought that it’s a regional conference based in the Northeast.

The other reason I will be rooting for Louisville is Rick Pitino. And that goes back to 1987, that special season when he took Providence College to the final four and it seemed like, at least in college basketball, anything was possible. Billy Donavan became a star and Providence was, if only for a moment, a national power.

A lot has happened since then. He won two titles at Kentucky and failed twice in the NBA. His 6 month old son died of heart failure, and his best friend and brother-in-law died in the Twin Towers. And then there was the extra-marital scandal.

In an ESPN article, Rick Reilly talks about his new perspective. He is “not the bug-eyed screamer, the arrogant New York know-it-all. He has swallowed too much heartache to be that man anymore.”

Looking back, Pitino reflects, "My biggest disappointment isn't that I didn't put somebody on the passer in that [1992 Duke] game. It's that I didn't live humbly all those years. I try to now."

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