LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- You never know where covering college basketball will take you. One minute, you're minding your own business, the next you get a text to come to a place called Tattoo Salvation on Bardstown Road.
If you happened to be walking up the alley beside the place Friday morning, you could've looked through the window and seen Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino, in the chair, having an old-English "L" tattooed on his back by artist Adam Potts, the Cardinals' 2013 NCAA championship trophy right there on the counter.
The "Champ Stamp" is complete.
"This is one place I thought I could safely say you'd never see me," Pitino said after flashing his new ink for some pictures.
This is a coach, who, after all, lost it with his players earlier this season and, among other things, told them they needed to stop with tattooing stuff all over their bodies.
"I went into the trainer's room and told them, 'This has to stop,'" Pitino said. "'All these sayings, all over your body, all the tattoos, it has to stop.' That was right after I'd given them this goal of winning our last seven games, not cutting down the nets after we won in the Garden (in the Big East Tournament). And they said, 'Well if we do everything you said in that room, will you get a tattoo?' And I said, 'I just gave you a speech that you guys gotta stop with all these things.' But they said, 'Will you do it, coach?' And I said, if they could do that, I would get one, never expecting this moment."
Potts was selected to do the honors after writing Pitino a letter. The coach said on the national telecast of the title game that he'd promised his players he'd get a tattoo. Potts, a lifelong Cardinal fan, wrote to Pitino about how much it would mean to him to be able to do the honors. He refused to charge the coach, who wrote a check instead to an Autism charity.
As with all things, Pitino needed a scouting report. Equipment manager Vinny Tatum had a dunking Cardinal tattooed on his thigh Thursday afternoon as a test run. Pitino's assistant, Jordan Sucher, also got a traditional Cardinal head logo tattoo.
These are whirlwind days for Pitino. I stopped in his office Tuesday to see a crowd of people in the conference room, assistant coaches and others, poring over potential designs for the NCAA championship rings. In his office, a round table Pitino sometimes uses for meetings was piled high with U of L championship merchandise.
On his desk, he pulled out of a white envelope some 8 by 10 photos of his whole extended family, Pitinos and Minardis, posed on the court in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and then again in the Georgia Dome.
"It is a moment in life," Pitino said. "We won a championship and we want to remember it, not that we'd ever forget it."
Those U of L players who have wandered back to Twitter now that the season is over were quick to react. "Coach P a man of his word," Peyton Siva Tweeted.
Pitino's family was having fun with it -- and needling him a bit at the same time (figuratively speaking, of course).
"I remember as if it was yesterday, disciplining my son Christopher because he went out and got a tattoo," Pitino said. "He softened the blow by putting the initials of my infant son who passed away on the cross on his back, but I remember disciplining him and trying to give him hell about it."
Suffice it to say, via text message in the tattoo parlor, Pitino caught a little hell back.
Pitino's message to his players has been to celebrate, to enjoy the championship. He's in celebration mode, as well, interrupted from time to time by recruiting trips, meetings with players and a few other tasks.
AOL and other media outlets had offered Pitino large sums of money to video his tattoo experience. He preferred to make it a smaller affair, with some of his assistants, U of L sports information director Kenny Klein, friend Terry Meiners and a couple of others in the room.
"It was a special time, not just because we won a national championship, but because it was such a special group of guys," Pitino said.
And as the Old English "L" with the words "NCAA Champions 35-5" underneath and the year 2013 down the side, the experience has left a lasting mark on Pitino.