Rick Pitino (born September 18, 1952) is the head Basketball coach at the University of Louisville. He has also served as head coach at Boston, Providence College and the University of Kentucky, leading that program to the NCAA championship in 1996 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Pitino holds the distinction of being the only men's coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four. He has coached on the professional level for the New York Knicks and Boston with mixed success. In addition, Pitino has achieved a measure of success as an author and a motivational speaker.
Pitino, an Italian American and native of New York City, was captain of the St. Dominic High School basketball team in Oyster Bay, Long Island. He enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1970, where he joined the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. He was a standout guard for the Minutemen basketball team. His 329 career assists rank eighth all-time at UMass and his 168 assists as a senior is the sixth-best single season total ever there. Pitino was a freshman at the same time future NBA legend Julius Erving spent his junior (and final) year at UMass, although the two never played on the same team because freshmen were ineligible to play varsity sports at the time. Another teammate of Pitino's was Al Skinner, who also went on to become a successful college coach. Pitino earned his degree from UMass in 1974. He was an inductee into the UMass Hall of Fame.
Pitino is currently head coach at the University of Louisville. Previous college coaching assignments include Boston, Providence College, and the University of Kentucky. As a collegiate head coach, Pitino has compiled a 521-191 record, for a .732 winning percentage that is ranked 10th among active coaches and 29th all-time among all collegiate basketball coaches entering the 2009 season.
Pitino started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Hawaii in 1974, and became a full-time assistant in 1975. He was then the first assistant hired by Jim Boeheim in 1976 as Boeheim began a now 31-year tenure at Syracuse University.
Pitino's first head coaching job came in 1978 at Boston University. In the two seasons before his arrival, the team had won a mere 17 games. Pitino led the team to its first NCAA appearance in 24 years.
Pitino left Boston University to be an assistant coach with the New York Knicks under Hubie Brown. Pitino returned to college coaching to become head coach at Providence in 1985. The struggling Providence had gone a dismal 11-20 in the year before he took over. Two years later, Pitino led the team to the Final Four. That Final Four team featured point guard Billy Donovan, who would go on to be an assistant coach under Pitino at Kentucky and then win back-to-back national championships as head coach at the University of Florida.
After spending two years coaching in the NBA, Pitino returned to the college level in 1989, becoming the coach at Kentucky. The legendary Kentucky program was reeling from a major recruiting scandal brought on by former coach Eddie Sutton that left it on NCAA probation. Pitino quickly restored Kentucky's reputation and performance, leading his second school to the Final Four in the 1993 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, and winning a national title in the 1996 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, Kentucky's first NCAA championship in 18 years. The following year, Pitino's Kentucky team made it back to the national title game, losing to Arizona Wildcats men's basketball in overtime in the finals of the 1997 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. Pitino's fast-paced teams at Kentucky were favorites of the school's fans. It was primarily at Kentucky where he implemented his signature style of full-court pressure defense.
Pitino went back to the NBA in 1997, but returned to college—and his adopted home state—on March 21, 2001 to coach a struggling Louisville team following the retirement of Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum. In the 2005 season, Pitino led Louisville to their 2005 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, and became the only men's coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four. Immediately following their Final Four run, several players graduated or entered the 2005 NBA Draft, leaving Coach Pitino's 2005-06 team very inexperienced. The inexperience ended up in the Cardinals limping into the Big East Tournament seeded 12th, and missing the NCAA tournament. They did rebound and made it to the semifinals in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT), but were defeated by eventual champions University of South Carolina. The 2007 Cardinal team was primarily the same team, with added freshmen. Picked to be towards the bottom of the Big East conference yet again, Pitino led them to a 2nd place finish, 12-4 (tied with the University of Pittsburgh, but Louisville beat them earlier in the season) in the conference standings and a first round bye in the conference tournament. Pitino, realizing that this is another rebounding year and not paying any attention to the critics, implemented a 2-2-1 and 2-3 defense that has flustered the conference after he started using it midway through the season, and ending up with an unpredictable turnaround, moving up 10 spots from last year when they went 6-10. The surprisingly-strong 2007 team's season ended when the Cardinals lost to Texas A&M in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The 2008 Cardinals were also quite successful, finishing second in the Big East and ending the regular season ranked 13th in both the AP and Coaches' polls. University of Louisville was a three-seed in the 2008 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament's East region. They defeated Boise State, Oklahoma and Tennessee to advance to the Elite Eight, where they were defeated by top seeded North Carolina.
Pitino is considered by many to be one of the first coaches to promote fully taking advantage of the 3-point shot, first adopted by the NCAA in 1987. By exploiting the 3-point shot, his teams at Kentucky in the early 1990s were known as Pitino's Bombinos, as a significant portion of the offensive points came from the 3-point shot. Even now, Pitino's teams are known for the 3-point threat and all of his teams rank towards the top in 3-point attempts per season.
Pitino became head coach of the New York Knicks in 1987. The year before he arrived, the team had won only 24 games. In just two years, Pitino led the Knicks to their first division title in nearly twenty years.
His NBA coaching experience often demonstrated a deep frustration with the dynamics of the league, especially in Boston, where he amassed a 102-146 record from 1997 to 2001. After being beaten by the Toronto Raptors on March 1, 2000 on a buzzer-beater by Vince Carter, Pitino's frustration reached critical mass as he addressed the press. Referring to the expectations of Boston fans and media, Pitino challenged each of them to let go of the past and focus on the future:
Pitino struggled in his roles with the Celtics, and statistics like 1998's 19-31 record made him little better in the eyes of many Boston fans than his inexperienced predecessor, M.L. Carr. Pitino's remarks became a cornerstone of Boston lore, and has served as a metaphor for other sports franchises and their inability to relive past successes. Pitino himself reprised the speech in a tongue-in-cheek manner at Louisville in November 2005, challenging his freshmen players to play as tough as past seniors and drawing laughter from sportswriters in a post-game press conference.
Author and accomplishmentsEdit
Pitino is the author of a motivational self-help book (and Audio recording) named Success is a Choice. He published an Autobiography in 1988 entitled Born to Coach describing his life up until his time with the Knicks.
In 2005, Pitino's Louisville team posted a tie for the most single season wins in school history (33) while he became the first and only men's coach in NCAA history to lead three separate schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four.
Pitino's .744 winning percentage in 43 NCAA Tournament games is 3rd best among active coaches.
Thoroughbred horse racingEdit
Beyond basketball, Pitino has been involved in the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing as the lead partner in Celtic Pride Stable and the Ol Memorial Stable. Among his notable horses have been A P Valentine and Halory Hunter.
Pitino married his wife, the former Joanne Minardi, in 1976. They have five living children: Michael, Christopher, Richard (currently serving as an assistant coach to his father at the University of Louisville), Ryan and Jacqueline. Another son, Daniel, died in 1987 from congenital heart failure at the age of six months. Rick and Joanne established the Daniel Pitino Foundation (along with a Daniel Pitino shelter in Owensboro, Kentucky) in his memory, which has raised millions of dollars for children in need.
Their son's death was not the last tragedy for Rick and Joanne. Both were especially hard-hit by 9/11, as Joanne's brother and Rick's closest friend, Billy Minardi, was working as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center when it was struck by American Airlines Flight 11. Since 2002, UofL has designated a December home game as the Billy Minardi Classic, and the university named a dorm on campus as "William Minardi Hall". Only a few months earlier, another brother-in-law of Rick, Don Vogt, was killed after being hit by a New York City cab.
- Official Website
- Rick Pitino's bio at CSTV.com
- UofL Men's Basketball website
- Player/Alumnus page on UMassHoops.com
- Celtic Pride Stable at Breeders' Cup.com
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