Of all the college basketball luminaries who have weighed in on the death of Osama bin Laden in the past 24 hours, few have a more personal connection to the Sept. 11 attacks than Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
Billy Minardi, Pitino's brother-in-law and best friend, was an equities trader who worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower and was among those who perished in the attacks. Pitino and Minardi were close friends in high school who grew tighter in adulthood, speaking two or three times per day by phone and sharing numerous family vacations, including a golfing trip to Pebble Beach the week before the attacks.
"Nine years and nine months have gone by, and not a second has gone by without thinking of him," Pitino said in an interview on ESPN's "SportsCenter" on Monday morning. "For all the families involved in 9/11, this is a great relief that justice has been served. It's not going to bring back our loved ones, but it's a great relief that we all can have closure."
Pitino was watching Sunday night's Phillies-Mets game with his two sons when they learned of bin Laden's death via text message from two of the Louisville coach's nephews. The news provided comfort to Pitino, even if it didn't bring his friend back.
"We still, for the last 10 years, have been wondering if a criminal of probably the highest proportion would ever be brought to death," Pitino said. "When we got the news last night, it's the first time in the last 10 years I did not have to take any melatonin, any Nyquil to go to sleep. I finally closed my eyes."
Pitino has done a lot to make sure Minardi is remembered.
He helped raise money to build Billy Minardi Hall, a student dormitory on campus at Louisville. He established the "Billy Minardi Classic," a title given to an annual home game for Louisville every December. And he and seven other friends go on a golfing trip each June to celebrate Minardi's life.
"We tried to do things in his honor that we're very proud of," Pitino said.