September 28, 2011
About the only positive aspect of Big East realignment for college basketball is the delightfully spiteful side it has awakened in Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
First he likened Pittsburgh's chancellor to the Godfather and took a jab at Boston College's lack of championships in the ACC. Then he accused prominent ACC coaches of being jealous of the Big East's hoops success. And now he's verbally attacking Connecticut for considering ditching the Big East.
Pitino took issue with Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy confirming UConn is interested in following Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, telling ZagsBlog.com such a move would be "the dumbest thing" he's ever heard.
"I almost went to Connecticut, it was Connecticut or UMass," the Louisville coach said. "I remember when they were struggling to win the Yankee Conference. In all of sports, the greatest building job I've seen in my life was done at Connecticut. The Big East has taken them from a Yankee Conference school" to where they are now.
"With that being said, how can you want to leave? Why would you want to leave? My biggest mistake I made in my life is when I left Camelot [Kentucky]" to lead the Boston Celtics in 1997. "They're leaving Camelot. It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of.
"Did you ever think that it ever crossed the mind of John Wooden to go into the Atlantic Coast Conference because they were bigger than the Pac-10 when he was winning 11 championships? Do you ever think it crossed his mind? No, when you're great winner, those things don't cross your mind.
Part of the reason for Pitino's campaign to keep the Big East together, of course, is that it's the best option for Louisville basketball. The Big 12 reportedly is interested in Louisville, but that league remains more unstable than even the Big East. And Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhardt told Kentucky Sports Radio on Tuesday he would not rule out vetoing having the Cardinals join the SEC.
What Pitino continually fails to mention regarding UConn's interest in the ACC is the stability and increased TV revenue from football that the conference would provide. The Huskies leaving the Big East would be incredibly sad for college basketball, but assurances of more money and stability is what's driving realignment right now.