JOE BIDDLE: Pitino had the golden touch for Cards

JOE BIDDLE: Sunday Notes: August 3, 2014 (Image 1)

Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino just experienced the best week he will ever see.

His son, Richard, was named last Thursday to succeed Tubby Smith as Minnesota's head coach. That's quite a jump from Florida International University to the Big Ten.

Saturday, a horse the Cards coach has ownership shares in, won the Santa Anita Derby, qualifying Goldencents for next month's Kentucky Derby.

That night, Pitino's Comeback Cardinals earned their way into the Final Four championship game by putting a pesky Wichita State team in its place. This time, it was a case of the Cards overcoming a 12-point deficit to put Pitino in the title game for the third time in his career.

Monday morning the Basketball Hall of Fame made it official. Rick Pitino will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, class of 2013.

So was there any doubt Louisville would keep Pitino's magic carpet ride alive by winning the national championship over Michigan in this tournament's best game, arguably one of the best ever in terms of two talented teams going nose to nose for 40 minutes, through the peaks and valleys.

Again, 12 became the magic number. Down a dozen points, Pitino's team reached down for extra juice, eventually enjoying an 82-76 confetti shower.

Given Pitino's run of good fortune, I wouldn't be surprised if Publisher's Clearing House representatives are ringing Pitino's doorbell when he gets home.

If I were Pitino, I'd buy a lottery ticket with the largest payoff. One ticket should do the trick. Strike when you're hot, and Pitino is a walking five-alarm fire.

There was joy in the Commonwealth. Or at least the part where citizens are wearing their red and making “L'' signs with their hands.

Pitino now becomes the only coach to take two different schools to the Final Four and win it. Moreover, he did it all within the same state, where there is no love lost between Kentucky and Louisville. It's never happened. Likely it won't be repeated by anyone.

He was labeled a traitor when he won the 1996 national championship with Kentucky, then bolted to the NBA and would later return to Louisville.

Those were different times. Different teams.

“Well, '96, I just had to control the egos and understand. It's not about the pros, it's about winning a championship. I had a great team, one of the best teams in the history of college basketball,'' Pitino said.

“This team is one of the most together, toughest, hard-nosed teams. We played a great team the other night in Wichita State and got outplayed for about 34 minutes of the game. But this team, being down never bothers us. They just come back.''

Pitino is a more humble coach than he was in 1996. It was before he had to experience the death of his brother-in-law and best friend, Billy Minardi, in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

After Monday night's game, Pitino gave his Hall of Fame jersey to Minardi's sister, Mary Vogt.

“It was probably the most special thing I'd ever gotten in my life,'' Pitino said. “But to me, she's the Hall of Famer.''

He told of her struggle as an alcoholic after losing her brother on 9/11. She has now been sober for 10 years.

“I wanted her to have something special.''

Pitino is pretty special himself. He has taken life's punches to the gut and refused to run.

He will never have another week like he had last week. But his life is full and he has reached the point in life where he is more elated for the joy those around him get than he is for himself.

That's Hall of Fame worthy.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at

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