Thursday, March 22, 2001

Cardinal fans rejoice; Kentucky fans worry

Pitino's back ... on the other team

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FLORENCE — University of Kentucky basketball fans were more likely to offer a spirited cheer Wednesday than an outraged roar when they heard that Rick Pitino, once their favorite coach, had taken a job with the Wildcats' archrival, the University of Louisville.

        Customers at Kentucky Korner, a Florence Mall store replete with blue-and-white athletic wear, said Mr. Pitino's return will revitalize local basketball competition and intensify one of the state's best rivalries.

        Mr. Pitino led the UK Wildcats to a national championship before he was named coach and president of the NBA Boston Celtics in 1997. He resigned from that position in January, and Wednesday announced hehad accepted the Louisville job.

        “It'll be good for the rivalry,” said Brian Potter, 20, of Burlington, who was on the hunt for a UK flag to wave during tonight's Sweet 16 game against the University of Southern California.

        He expects many of his fellow UK fans to boo Mr. Pitino when the 'Cats meet the Cards. But Mr. Potter will cheer. He always liked Mr. Pitino's coaching style, he said, and the Wildcats' “up-tempo” game.

        “He's a good coach. I'll clap for him,” he said.

        But he'll root for UK.

        Jim Edmonds, 32, of Taylor Mill, feels the same. He was shopping for a new UK sweat shirt. His wife, Karen, said he already has more UK athletic wear than she can count.

        He said he's anxious to see what Mr. Pitino can do with Louisville's players. But which team will he cheer for when the Wildcats face the Cards?

        “Kentucky. Not a question.”

        Word of Pitino's move inspired Linda Grubbs, a Louisville native now living in Walton, to hang a red-and-black Louisville flag outside her home. Its sole companion is the Stars and Stripes.

        “I was born and raised in Louisville,” she said. “I think it's wonderful. It's good for the whole state.”

        Her husband, Buddy, is a big UK fan. They both think the Wildcats will beat the Cardinals next year. But they expect that to change down the road.

        Mr. Grubbs already expects to get “bent out of shape” if that happens.

        “I'll just ignore him,” his wife said with a laugh.


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