CRAWFORD | Louisville's Pitino explains why Harrell asked to step down as captain
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Rick Pitino wanted Montrezl Harrell to be a captain, not a general. The junior preseason All-American made some news last weekend when he told local radio host Jason Anderson that he no longer was a captain on the University of Louisville basketball team.
On his radio show aired by WHAS and produced by the Louisville Sports Network Wednesday night, Rick Pitino explained. He said that he continually had to call Harrell in to ask him to be more positive with the team's younger big men, and that eventually Harrell asked to be removed as a captain because he couldn't manage it.
“I had a problem with Montrezl,” Pitino said. “I said, ‘Listen, Montrezl, you can't get on these guys the way you're doing. You're killing their confidence.' His response was, ‘These guys don't work hard enough, don't listen well enough and unless they develop we're not going to be a great team at the end of the year. I said, ‘That may be true Montrezl, but you've got to let me be the bad guy.' After calling him in for the fourth time, he said, ‘Listen coach, Wayne's the good guy, I'm the tough guy, let him be captain, I'm still going to be a leader, so we don't have to go through this all the time.' So I said, ‘If that's the way you feel that's fine.'”
Calling the situation “absolutely no big deal,” Pitino said he'd advised Harrell not to say anything about it publicly, for fear that it would turn into something bigger than he believed it was. But Harrell brought it up after U of L's loss to Duke on Saturday, and speculation over the reason has been going on since.
Pitino described Harrell as “an ultra competitor” and said, “he gets very upset when guys don't play. But he has to realize that some of these guys are just physically weak. They can't guard him. They can't play and don't play as hard, not because they don't want to, it's just they're physically weak and it's just going to take some time.”
He said Harrell's teammates don't have a problem with him.
“Everybody respects Montrezl because he works so hard,” Pitino said. “Now a few of them fear him a little bit, but that's no different from what Kyle Kuric had with (Terrence Williams) or some what some of the young guards go through with the older guards. So they have a great relationship. He's just very hard on them. I've said it in front of the team on two separate occasions, ‘You captains need to be upbeat and positive.'”
Harrell made headlines earlier in the season for loudly calling out teammates for bringing off-the-court problems and moodiness into the locker room. His frustration on the court has been evident in recent weeks. He's the subject of constant double-teams not only from opposing defenses, but from opposing rebounders.
Pitino said he needs Harrell to take the initiative to post up more, and to worry less about his perimeter game.
Harrell is averaging 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds on the season. He is shooting 57.3 percent from the field. Over his past four games, however, he has averaged 9 points and 8.8 rebounds, shooting 43.8 percent from the field.
“We want him blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, scoring points off the offensive glass, scoring points off 16-foot jump shots, outrunning people on the break, and posting up, that's who we want him to play like,” Pitino said. “We want him to play like Kenneth Faried, that's what he was as a freshman and sophomore, and he had great years. Now he did have 20 points in the first half at Wake Forest (two weeks ago), but I would rather see him post up, get offensive rebounds and run the break, than shoot three-point shots.”
Harrell has looked to be a player showing the strains of carrying a team's interior load over the past several weeks. He gets agitated when plays are broken or run incorrectly.
His frustration and drive are understandable. But he'll need to understand, patience is essential, as well. If he wants help on the interior, he's better off supporting his teammates at least as much as he's berating them. There's more to being a good teammate than working hard.
The Cards will end an eight-day layoff with a game at Pittsburgh on Sunday at 4 p.m. in a CBS telecast.
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