Pitino wants Louisville to play like old Kentucky
by Adam Himmelsbach, USA TODAY Sports
Coaches are often hesitant to compare their teams to those that preceded them.
Sometimes they don’t want to add undue pressure; sometimes they don’t want to add undue praise.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino, it turns out, has been secretly motivating his team by offering a parallel that is all but unmentionable on campus. Apparently he has told his players he wishes they played more like the University of Kentucky.
Now, Pitino was not referring to John Calipari’s Kentucky. He was talking about his Kentucky, more specifically the 1995-96 team that went 34-2, won a national title and included seven NBA first-round picks.
He has explained to these Cardinals that if they want to be great, they will need to become as relentless as those Wildcats. Big leads will need to turn into bigger leads. Attacks will have to remain constant.
“He’s always bringing up that their victory margin was like 28,” forward Chane Behanan said. “Golly, they was smacking people.”
These Cardinals are smacking people, too. They defeated South Florida 64-38 on Saturday despite shooting just 38% from the floor. For the first time since joining the Big East in 2005, they’ve won their first three conference games by 15 points or more.
These Cardinals are also likely to carry the No. 1 national ranking into Monday night’s Big East game at Connecticut (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET) after the top three — Duke, Michigan and Arizona — each suffered their first losses of the season in the past week.
Yes, Louisville’s early lopsided results are partly related to the opponents. The victories came against Providence, Seton Hall and South Florida, which are a combined 1-8 in conference play. Still, the Cardinals have been remarkably thorough and appear ready for their brutal upcoming slate, which besides Connecticut includes games against Syracuse and Georgetown.
And who would have guessed the secret to a special season might be to mimic UK? Specifically, players said, Pitino wants them to be as merciless as the 1995-96 Wildcats.
“We’re trying to be like them,” guard Kevin Ware said. “Coach praises how good they were on defense. If they were up 30 going into the second half, … [For more on Pitino wants Louisville to play like his old Kentucky team, click here.]