Thursday, March 15, 2001

Pitino has eyes only for U of L

Ex-UK coach says he's not looking for other offers

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Rick Pitino says he wants his next coaching job to be his last, and Louisville is the only job he's considering.

        The former Kentucky and Boston Celtics coach visited with retired Cardinals coach Denny Crum and toured the UofL campus Wednesday with his 18-year-old son, Richard.

        Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich, who met with Pitino in Miami last weekend, has said Pitino is the only candidate for the job.

        Pitino didn't say when he would decide his future but denied Wednesday he's biding his time to see what other jobs open. Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he wanted to talk to Pitino after firing Brian Ellerbe on Tuesday.

        “I'm really not thinking about any other jobs,” Pitino said. “I have to take my time and make sure I'm making the right move, but it isn't because of other job openings, that's not the case at all.

        “This is a big decision for me, because I wanted Boston to be my last coaching job, and this certainly will be.”

        Pitino flew to Louisville on Tuesday night from Dayton, where he worked as a television analyst in the NCAA opening-round game. He will work for CBS through the Final Four and has said he will not accept a coaching job until next week, at the earliest.

        Pitino backed off earlier statements that he's upset that some Kentucky fans feel jilted by his decision to even consider coaching the Wildcats' archrival.

        “I can't get too carried away with the UK fans thing,” Pitino said. “There is a very small minority in every form of society that make much more noise than the other people.”

        Pitino said Kentucky fans should be more appreciative of what he accomplished in Lexington, turning a storied program that was caught in a recruiting scandal back into a national power.

        “I would hope every game, they would root for Rick Pitino wherever I'm coaching, except for that one game a year,” Pitino said.

        Pitino met for 30 minutes with Crum, who retired March 2. Crum said the two discussed Louisville's current players and recruits.

        “The reason I'm here is because of my love for Kentucky,” Pitino said. “It just so happens that a premier university with a premier basketball program has a job that hasn't been open in 30 years, and it just so happened to open right now.”

        As Pitino was preparing to leave the UofL campus Wednesday, several women's basketball players approached, wanting to meet the coach.

        One of them, freshman point guard Sara Nord, said, “Oooh, Coach, I want to play for you.”

        Replied Pitino, “The way these guys played this season, you might get that chance.”

        Beyond adding Nord at point guard, he did offer some insight into what he thought would be needed to turn around a Louisville team that finished 12-19 last season.

        “Recruiting,” he said. “Anytime you lose, you realize there's a scarcity of overall talent. I'm sure there's some talent here. But you've got to pick up the pieces and recruit hard and turn it around, just like we did 11 or 12 years ago at Kentucky.

        “You have to turn it around with an exciting style and hard work. There's no substitute for discipline.”

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