Friday, March 23, 2001

Pitino reports to work bright and early

Associated Press Writer

        LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Rick Pitino plunged into his new job as Louisville's coach, arriving to work at 7 a.m. and putting his new players through rigorous individual workouts.

        Pitino, who took the job a day earlier, spent Thursday afternoon calling recruits before heading to a reception with his wife, Joanne, at the home of university president John Shumaker.

        Pitino spoke briefly with a local television crew as he left work about 5 p.m. EST.

        “I like their eagerness to learn,” Pitino told WHAS-TV about his new team. “That's what I had at Kentucky 11 years ago, eight players who were willing to learn. That's a good start.”

        The players left their workouts exhausted — but thrilled about the future.

        “It was kind of a shock — I thought I was in shape,” freshman reserve forward Mac Wilkinson said. “We're not used to going that hard. It kind of hurt while we were doing it, but it felt good afterwards.

        “This is definitely an exciting thing. You feel like you've got something to prove to the new coach, you feel like you want to show yourself, knowing his background and where he's come from.”

        Junior center Joseph N'Sima embraced the intensity of his workout — and also said it was a radical change from workouts under Denny Crum, who retired March 2.

        “When a coach is intense, he usually wants you to play as intense as he is. This is different in that respect,” said N'Sima. “It was not shocking, it was just a different style of practice.

        “I'm looking forward to it. I'm really willing to improve and he's going to help.”

        Athletic director Tom Jurich said Pitino still has not signed a six-year contract that would pay him about $1 million per season. Pitino has backed out of his commitment to work for CBS throughout the NCAA tournament.

        Pitino said Wednesday the money wasn't important to him, even though his deal with Louisville would make him one of the highest paid coaches in the country.

        “When we were negotiating, Tom and I never once spoke about money. I had some other people speak about that,” Pitino said. “To be honest, it's 16 on a list of 15 for me. I've already done the money thing (in Boston), and didn't derive a lot of happiness from that. It's insignificant.

        “The most important thing in my life right now outside of my family is to turn around the Cardinals.”

       Complete tournament coverage at

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