CRAWFORD | Pitino on his Louisville future: 'I don't know' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Pitino on his Louisville future: 'I don't know'

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Associated Press photo. Associated Press photo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — I can’t get away from the question, so I don't imagine Rick Pitino can. Everywhere I go, the first question anyone asks me is, “Is Pitino gone?” Or, sometimes, “Is Pitino coming back?”

In a news conference Friday afternoon, exactly one week after the University of Louisville announced a postseason ban for violations discovered in the escorts-for-recruits scandal that has plagued the program since it broke last October, Pitino answered the the question, “What is your future here?”

Pitino first cracked a joke, saying, “I’m hoping to get through this season before I die.”

When the chuckling ended, he got closer to the heart of it, using the same three words I generally use when the question comes to me: 

“I don’t know,” he said.

The rest, frankly, is commentary. (See the complete discussion about his future to the right.)

“I could coach another 15 years,” he said. “I thoroughly enjoy it, because I absolutely love Louisville, love the fans, love the people, enjoy you (media) — to a certain degree.”

He talked about his decision to re-brand the program, “Louisville First,” and about how he owns the trademark.

Then he said, “When there comes a day when my coaching does not put Louisville first, that’s when I will leave,” he said. “It won’t be based on anything other than that.”

Your guess as to what precisely that means is probably as good as mine. I suspect it means that when everything is more about him than about the program, he’ll hang it up.

The question, clearly, isn’t going to go away. He got it from Seth Davis in an interview last week with Sports Illustrated. He got it from Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN Monday.

Pitino added, about his chosen time of departure, “I hope that’s not for a long time. But sometimes you don’t make those decisions. I do work for a university.”

Pitino has a decade left on his contract. There are provisions that protect him from wrongdoing by his staff, so long as he is not found to have known about it. I wrote about those in this column on Wednesday.

Regardless, Pitino said if he’s not wanted, the contract won’t be a barrier to his departure.

“I don’t think it would come to that with me,” he said. “It would not come to that. I love this place too much for it to come to that. If they didn’t want me, it wouldn’t be a matter of that, I guarantee you that. I’d just ask for all of you (media) to chip in on a farewell party.”

Is the party over? I don’t think anyone, even Pitino, can truly say.

For the time being, he’s just trying to help his team have a good time, with no postseason basketball to look forward to.

Usually, he lightens things up around tournament time. He wants players loose during postseason play, after the grind of the regular-season stretch run, they usually start to do more fun things as a team once the tournament comes.

But this year, with no tournament, the fun has started early.

“We’ve tried to make practices fun for the guys, put as much laughter and competitiveness as possible so everybody enjoys the experience,” Pitino said. “And we’re getting that accomplished.”

Pitino explained, “We’ll just joke around a lot more than we normally would. When someone makes a mistake, we won’t be as hard on them. We’ll just laugh about the mistake. We’ll show them films of mistakes. Like, Jaylen (Johnson) in the last game, was going to the referee pointing the wrong way like he wanted it to be (Duke’s) ball. I said something like, ‘He wanted to flip! He wanted to be on defense.’ We try to add as much of that as possible. There’s not a whole lot to look forward to, so to make it as enjoyable as can be for Damion and Trey is a good thing to do.”

And though he didn’t say it in a news conference in which he appeared to be on the verge of getting emotional a couple of times -- including when he recalled a text message sent to him by Damion Lee -- maybe he’s doing it a little bit for himself, too.

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