TRANSCRIPT | Rick Pitino's Louisville Tip-Off Luncheon speech - WDRB 41 Louisville News

TRANSCRIPT | Rick Pitino's Louisville Tip-Off Luncheon speech

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Rick Pitino reads from a text message he received from a player at the end of his Tipoff Luncheon speech on Wednesday. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford) Rick Pitino reads from a text message he received from a player at the end of his Tipoff Luncheon speech on Wednesday. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The full text of a sometimes emotional speech from University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, without notes or other aides, to 1,200 supporters at Wednesday's Louisville Basketball Tipoff Luncheon at the Marriott Downtown.

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The guys that were introduced to you, you probably don’t know a lot of them. They haven’t scored many points, returning. And you’re not sure what to expect when you put together a team where the high scorer probably averaged less than five points per game, but because I’m such a believer in the one and done, we had two young men join us who have totally changed the makeup of our basketball team. Damion (Lee) was the fourth-leading scorer in the nation last year for Drexel, which doesn’t play really fast, so that’s quite an achievement. And he backs it up with an unbelievable attitude. And Trey Lewis, who is our other fifth-year senior, backs up his game by playing multiple positions and leading.

You never know what kind of attitude you’re going to have each year. And you’ve often heard that one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch, and I’ve coached some teams where that’s definitely true. And then you get the one or two people that can totally change the dynamics. I’ll say after practice, what’s going on down there, and they’ll say, ‘They’re signing karaoke.’ I say, ‘The guys are doing that?’ And they say, ‘Yes, they do it almost every day. They dance and they sing.’

I had something that’s never happened to me before in practice. All week long, the same player kept coming up to me and saying, ‘Thank you,’ after practice, ‘I really appreciate it.’ I thought he was conning me, but after getting to know Donovan (Mitchell) I realized he’s truly thanking me for practice. So it’s an unusual group, a different group, and I think we’ll be, if you look at our strengths, one of the leading shot-blocking teams in the nation. Something that I’ve never had. But we probably have close to 15-25 blocked shots per practice. Which is very unusual. I will say this, and it’s been said many times, and our media will find out this, it’s probably the finest collection of people I’ll ever coach. And that’s quite a statement because I’ve coached some outstanding teams with outstanding people. So they’re going to be a great group for you to watch.

Now, I will say this to you. I’m going to try to get through this the right way, because the NCAA has not ordered me, but suggested to me, that I don’t say anything about anything. The great thing about that, I’m not going to media day, I get to avoid all these questions which people will ask. But I believe in a few things.

(Assistant coach) Ralph (Willard, who has taken a medical leave of absence) said to me as we were discussing today, it’s kind of funny, I said, ‘How did the doctor appointments go.’ And he said, ‘Not good.’ I said what do you mean? He said, ‘My heart’s been out of rhythm 37 times since this thing happened.’ He looked at me and said, ‘How’d your doctor’s appointment go?’ I felt like the Sunshine Boys. And I said, ‘Not good Ralph, I’ve got walking pneumonia.’  And, so automatically he pulled his chair back and I said, ‘I think I’m OK now, I’m on medication. But I’ve just found out about it.’ And I said, ‘Why do you have that sleeve on your arm?’ And he said, ‘It must be the high blood pressure is affecting my arm.’ And he said, ‘Why do you have that ice on your knee?’ (Laughing) I said, ‘Can we stop talking?’

Well, last week, we had a nice luncheon for our athletic director, he won the AD of the year, for everything he’s given. And though we’re very proud of him, he was near tears as he walked out, and couldn’t really accept it in the right frame of mind. And it was like a knife going through you.

So I figure out, when times get tough, the why of it. I know the other side of the story. I know why they’re coming out with a book. And I know exactly why. On our end of the thing, I don’t get the why. It doesn’t make any sense. See, we’ve been successful here with Russ Smith, being a two-star basketball player. Gorgui Dieng was not top 60, now starting for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Terry Rozier was not Top 50 in the nation, 16th draft pick of the Celtics. Kyle Kuric and Larry O’Bannon came here as walk-ons, and left as celebrated athletes.

Now the difficult thing. The why part of it. And I don’t have any answers to it. I know as far as I’m concerned, every coach has rights and wrongs in their life. I do know one thing, every coach that sat next to me, some 20 young college and professional coaches, always knew what I was about, as far as NCAA rules were concerned. Every living room I visited, of every recruit, knew exactly where I stood with the rules of the NCAA. Every player I’ve ever coached, knew exactly where I stand. Because I believe in the rules. I believe when we compete, I want the same level playing field. And we believe we’re going to win for the reasons we set forth in practice, and everything should be level.

But the difficult part is, I went around, my wife and I have said this many, many times in our life, when 9-11 hit, half of our life, and who we are, was gone. So you always think, when something bad happens, what can you do to celebrate and make life better? I was just talking with Father (Bradley), when we lost our son, there was no better way to celebrate his life than the Daniel Pitino Homeless Shelter. And for those who think the economy is getting great, 3-4 years ago we were feeding seven days a week 120 people per day. Now we’re feeding close to 200, depending on the time of the month. So it’s not necessarily getting better. But that’s a good way to celebrate someone’s life. It’ll live on forever.

So I went to Dr. Ramsey one day and I said, ‘Dr. Ramsey I’d like to build a dormitory in my brother-in-law’s name that I lost in 9-11.’ He said, ‘I can’t do that, Rick. I have to then do that for women’s basketball, women’s soccer, and we have to do everything the same here for all sports,’ because that’s the way it is here. It’s not about who brings in the most money. There’s something come out now, I don’t know exactly what it’s called, Kenny what is it when they get the money for? Cost of attendance, where certain athletes for football and athletes who bring in revenue get so much money. Every athlete at the University of Louisville will get the cost of attendance. There is no difference in women’s lacrosse and men’s basketball. There is no difference between soccer and football. It’s all the same. It doesn’t matter how much money you bring in, we all get treated the same by our leader. But I said to Dr. Ramsey, ‘How about, you give me a parcel of land, and I’ll raise money, close to $5 million, turn the keys over to you as a donation.’ He said, ‘You can do that?’ I said, ‘I believe so.’ So I went to New York and asked everybody for $50,000 who knew Billy Minardi. They were more than happy to give it. Then I asked a couple of local friends, actually quite a few, and they were willing to do it. And even though some of them were Kentucky fans, they still did it. And we built something that was not only like the shelter, for his name to live on, but we built it as a place where camaraderie would be. Players would interact with other students, living by high standards, because that’s what Billy was all about. His friends, his family, were the most important things in their life. 

So when this came out, it hit us all, like a bombshell. Because I just don’t understand why. There’s a lot of ifs here, if it did happen. And the ifs are not being answered, they have to be answered by the NCAA. I immediately tried to contact every athlete that I knew. I told managers, over 20 of them, if one person of mine has a beer downtown, I hear about it the next day. And now not one manager, or anyone, will come forward and say they saw anything wrong. So I’m not allowed to talk to any players about it, not allowed to do any investigating on my own. Which is fine. But I do know this: If there was any wrongdoing — it’s a big if — and people have to pay for their crimes — and that’s an if — if it happens, we’ll all own up to it, and do the best we can under adverse situations. I hope those ifs are not true, because that building means a great deal to me. I’d have a very difficult time forgiving the people, if any of those ifs are true, and I’m a very forgiving person. But I say this to you now and always: I don’t care what Sports Illustrated says. I haven’t read it many years. I’m not sure what the media is saying about me, except text messages I get all the time, saying, ‘Hang in there, I know it’s tough.’ Please stop texting me that, if you’re out there. But we will survive in a way. I know the way women are treated on this campus. But unfortunately on every campus in America, women are mistreated at times. And that lack of respect must stop everywhere. And there are times where you’ll see certain universities go through problems. It’s how you solve the problems that are important. I don’t have any concern about solving these problems at all.

I had a friend, some people thought he blindsided me. He probably did. Very similar to President Obama being blindsided by Steve Kroft, I believe his name is, on a recent interview, 60 Minutes. They all said that was his friend. Well a person who blindsided me is my friend. First question he asked, and I was going on his show in tough times to be nice, he said, ‘Will you resign? Are you considering resigning?’ I said, ‘Well, hello to you too, Terry.’ In the end, I had no problem with it. Just like Steve Kroft had a job to do, so does he. His job was not to build me up in that moment. His job is to get to the truth. And that’s not what friends are for when you go on an interview, obviously.

But we will find the truth, whenever that may be. And people will pay the price of any wrongdoing that may occur. So I know the whys from the other end. Don’t know the why for our end. I still can’t figure it out. No matter how little sleep I get, no matter how much my mind wanders at night, I know what the University of Louisville is all about. I know what Tom Jurich is all about. And without being, praising and patronizing myself, as far as NCAA rules are about, I know what I’m all about. That One-Day Contract, the ability to look in the mirror and feel good about yourself, in 41 years of coaching, I feel great about myself.

Now, I never do this. I never take out my phone at dinner, I’ve written about it. But it’s a great way to end this. If I could find it. Because after Terry said that to me, I wondered, a lot. His question didn’t bother me. I said, ‘Are people thinking I should resign, and why would they think that way?’ And then I immediately, it was funny how it worked, I was feeling down — and I feel down now, not to lie to you. See, I’m acting. What does an actor do, he plays a role, finds out everything about that person, and gets into it. And that’s what a coach does under the influence of adversity. He acts. He gets between the lines, and like I told my team the other day, ‘Hey guys, I’m down. And every time I step between the lines, you lift me up. Because I’ve never had a group like this in my life.’ But that night after I started wondering what was said, because I don’t read or listen except for those text messages that come my way, I got a text from one of my players and I don’t want to embarrass him by naming him. He said, ‘The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. We have something very special on our horizon. And this attack on our program is just verification. The Bible says that no weapon formed against you shall prosper. But it never said that it wouldn’t form. I serve a God who can use our problems to bring glory to his name. Have no fear, coach. I love you.’

So, not only do I have walking pneumonia, but when I put these glasses on, I see you for the first time. So we will get through this the right way. And whatever sits upon us, we will find out with the right people investigating. We won’t go by hearsay. I know what this program’s all about. I feel very, very confident in what the players are all about. And this group that you’re going to see on Saturday, you’re going to see something very special. I think we can go very far. We have an extremely difficult road schedule. But I’ve never been more confident in my 41, 42 years of coaching, than the confidence I have in this group. They will do great things on the basketball court, and they will represent you exactly the way you want, for a Louisville basketball player. I really appreciate your support and friendship. Often in life, you don’t get this many friends. I had a great, real important man in this town who I admire greatly, text me at one in the morning, with a long text, saying that the things I’ve admired about you haven’t really come on the basketball court. I admire how many friends you have. To me, that’s one of the greatest gifts you can have. Right now, I’m pretty fortunate. I’ve got about 1,200 great friends in this room. So I thank you all very much.

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