How’s this for a good last seven days for Rick Pitino?
So far, he has:
1.Gotten Louisville to the national championship game. If the Cardinals beat Michigan Monday night, Pitino will become the first coach to ever lead two different schools to NCAA championships (he directed Kentucky to the title in 1996).
2. Seen his son, Richard Pitino, introduced as head basketball coach at Minnesota.
3. Seen a horse he co-owns named “Goldencents” win the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday in California, establishing the thoroughbred as a strong contender for the Kentucky Derby.
4. Been unofficially named to the 2013 basketball hall of fame class (the official announcement will come Monday).
Given all of that, a reporter on Sunday asked Pitino if he was “pressing your luck” or does he “indeed have a deal with the devil?”
Pitino said in response: “I try not to ever get too low… When good things happen, I don’t really embrace it. I just say it’s a lucky day.”
• Watch out for Michigan big man Mitch McGary on Monday night. He has been a breakout star in the NCAA tournament, leading the Wolverines with averages of 16 points and 11.6 rebounds. McGary’s matchup with Louisville’s 6-11 shotblocker Gorgui Dieng – a junior who plans to turn pro after this game – will be critical.
• Michigan’s five starters were asked Sunday how many starters they could name from the last Michigan team that won the NCAA championship team, in 1989. Together, they came up with two – Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson.
• Pitino has had his Louisville team watch the two-hour ESPN documentary on the N.C. State 1983 championship squad for inspiration. “I cried 50 percent of the time,” Pitino said.
• The Louisville radio analyst is Bob Valvano, who also does some commentary work for ESPN. Valvano is the brother of deceased former Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano.
• The NCAA messes a lot up, but it got this right. It held both the Division II and Division III championship games Sunday in downtown Atlanta and granted free admission to everyone, drawing in far larger crowds for those championships than the games would have likely gotten otherwise.
• Pitino made a strong case Sunday for the NCAA to order its officials to allow more freedom of movement for offensive players next season. He said college basketball must take a page from the NBA and eliminate constant hand-checking and physical play by defenses to get the game’s scoring back up and stop players from feeling like they have to wear “body armor,” as Pitino put it.