Day 6: Louisville | Traveling Violations
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It is the worst kept secret in college sports. The soon-to-be depleted Big East is going to re-expand its membership, and its invites are going to Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and possibly South Florida.
For U of L coach Rick Pitino, a New York native and someone who worked in the 1980s at Big East school Providence, not to mention pro stints with the Knicks and Celtics, it's a good thing.
Nothing against Conference USA, but the chance to go home again is appealing to Pitino.
"Obviously the Big East has changed since I was in it," said Pitino, who led Providence to the 1987 Final Four. "But the chance to go back to New York, go back to New Jersey, Providence, Washington D.C., Storrs, Conn., is exciting.
"This is where I got my start. I understand my window of coaching is closing. The chance to go back to where I started is exciting."
• We were treated to a beautiful drive on Thursday morning. We left in the dark of Bloomington, Ind., only to experience dawn breaking over the rolling foliage-filled hills and pumpkin patch fields of Southern Indiana en route to Louisville, Ky., where Pitino conducts practice early.
Among the highlights was passing the famed Orleans Dairyland, which also claims to be the "Dogwood Capital of America." Then there was Paoli, with its quaint town square and boast of being the "Heart of Hoosier Hospitality."
We even saw signs for "Rock City, the world's 8th wonder" and a big "bulldozer blade sale" closer to New Albany.
As morning commutes go, it doesn't get much better.
• Valued reader of the day (concerning our making a plea for forgiveness from his fiancee after he stayed out too late with us in Indy):
Dan, you are the man!
I may have earned points with the lucky lady, her mom, and the rest of the female nation with that mention in the notes!
Thanks for the great time at the Noodle! I hope that yesterday was the first of many future Butler stops! I think I speak for all of us out there when I say thank you for your support of Butler, and your obvious understanding of "the Butler Way."
Jager Bomb's, brew's and 22 win seasons,
• Lexingtonian and true blue Wildcat fan Thomas Gaines earns MVP honors of the UK segment of the trip and is a strong candidate for the prestigious Most Outstanding Host of the Tour honors. Not only did he give us a tour of the bucolic Castleton Stud Farm outside of Lexington but also he took us to dinner at the incomparable Merrick Inn.
If you don't know, you just don't know.
• Dinner guests included one-time Bret Bearup UK teammate Jim Master, Victoria Sun, the talented reporter from The Cincinnati Post, and great local friends Tommy Boyd and Knoxville Mel.
• Louisville is set to sign a dynamic recruiting class next month that should be the final piece to Rick Pitino's rebuilding plan for the Cardinals.
Already verbally committed are point guard Sebastian Telfair of Brooklyn, N.Y., wing Donta Smith of Southeastern Illinois JC, power man Brian Johnson of Oak Hill Academy, off guard Lorenzo Wade of Hargrave Military Academy and center Terrance Farley of Louisville.
Most recruiting sleuths rank this among the top three classes in the nation. A wall inside the U of L basketball offices, which highlight the 19 NBA players whom Pitino coached in college, explains why so much great young talent flocks to the man.
"What is great about (U of L) is the amount of time these guys get individually developing their skills," said Pitino, who puts players through daily individual skill development sessions. "We spend an inordinate amount of hours working on their footwork and working on their game, and they come here because they look at that NBA wall.
"I believe every player wants discipline and wants to work hard because it is an insurance policy against them failing. And even though they don't want to work, they don't want to fail because the alternative is worse."
• Total Mileage thus far: 905.4 miles.
• Next stop: Cincinnati.