Rick Pitino short and sweet at HOF inductions
by The Louisville Courier Journal , USATODAY
SPRINGFIELD, MASS. — Rick Pitino spoke last, but not least.
He had vowed to be brief, to confine his remarks to seven or eight minutes during Sunday’s induction ceremony for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Short and sweet,” he had promised, and that goal would gain urgency from the pressure building in his bladder after nearly three hours of speeches and video tributes.
Yet the University of Louisville’s basketball coach has not won 664 college games and two NCAA titles by being enslaved by a script. He is quick to incorporate new information, to adjust to shifting circumstances and he continues to tinker as long as time permits.
If the 20-minute speech Pitino delivered Sunday afternoon was more than twice as long as he had anticipated, it was also indicative of his ability to improvise on the fly. From a stranger’s statement that his induction was overdue, Pitino found a launching point to express his humility about being included in the Hall of Fame. Reunited Saturday with men who played for him more than 30 years ago at Boston University, Pitino picked up a fresh anecdote he used to frame his career reminiscences.
“Back then there was no 20-hour rule,” Pitino said, referencing the NCAA restriction designed to limit the amount of supervised activity required of athletes. “I thought that was the worst rule that the NCAA could ever put in until last night.
“I was coaching these guys an hour before breakfast, an hour between classtime, a three-hour practice and, being so young, I would always seek them out in the evenings for some two-on-two or -three-on-three basketball at the end. They were joking last night that it was 20 hours — a day. A couple of my guys said, ‘You know what you’re nickname was, coach? ‘Pop.’ ”
Initially, Pitino interpreted the nickname as a sign of respect, only to learn it was instead a subversive acronym: “Prisoners Of Pitino.”
Besides the advantage of being both funny and self-deprecating, the story fit Pitino’s larger theme: that a coach achieves Hall of Fame status on the shoulders of his players. While this hardly … [For more on Rick Pitino speaks last, but not least, at hall of fame inductions, click here.]