June 10, 2011
Perhaps a bit irritated by John Calipari's recent criticism of the Big East receiving so many NCAA tournament bids the past few seasons, Louisville coach Rick Pitino took a jab at the SEC on Thursday night.
Introducing his son Richard to a gathering of Louisville alumni in Shelbyville, Ky., Pitino drew a huge laugh when he joked, "[Richard] went away for a couple of years to learn how to do things in a second-rate league, then get back to the big time." Richard Pitino served as an assistant at Florida the past two seasons before returning to his father's staff at Louisville.
Pitino's jab appears to be a response to Calipari noting during the SEC Coaches Conference last week that 19 Big East teams made the NCAA tournament the past two seasons, yet only four of those advanced to the Sweet 16. Calipari brought up the subject when asked about how the SEC can land more NCAA tournament bids in the future.
"This is no knock on the Big East but they've had 19 teams in the tournament the last two years and how many have made it by the first round?" Calipari said. "How is this happening? When they start playing each other they say the 11th team is really good. What? We have to figure out how you play the best schedule you can play and still win. That's different for all of us. I think that's more important than 16 or 18 [conference] games."
Of course, the irony is that Calipari's Wildcats were ousted from the tournament both years by Big East teams — West Virginia in 2010 and UConn in 2011. That fact didn't appear to be lost on Pitino when he bristled after a reporter first made him aware of Calipari's comments at a news conference on Wednesday.
"The one thing I don't do, and I really mean this, I don't put my opinion into other people's business. I mind my own business. I don't profess to know how many teams should get in from the SEC or the Big East. That's why we have committees. So I mind my own business on stuff like that. The SEC is an outstanding conference. The ACC is an outstanding conference. Some years the Big East will be the best, some years the ACC, another year the SEC. So I don't put my laundry into someone else's basket."