BOZICH | Rick Pitino talks NCAA, Calipari, sleepers on Mike & Mi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Rick Pitino talks NCAA, Calipari, sleepers on Mike & Mike

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Rick Pitino talked to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio Tuesday morning. Rick Pitino talked to Mike and Mike on ESPN radio Tuesday morning.

SOMEWHERE ON I-74 (WDRB) – The six-person WDRB sports contingent is making its way to Des Moines, Iowa on Tuesday. Thanks to the marvelous equipment we’re provided, we’re still plugged into what is percolating in the world of college basketball as we make our way to watch Kentucky and Indiana play.

(We’ll have our first report live from Des Moines on the WDRB News at 10 Tuesday and then complete coverage from Iowa the rest of the week.)

Like many of you, we listened to Louisville coach Rick Pitino as he talked to Mike (Greenberg) and Mike (Golic) on ESPN radio Tuesday morning. Many thanks to my friend Russ Brown, who transcribed most of the Pitino interview. He shared it with me so I can share it with you – before we stop for lunch somewhere in Eastern Illinois.

Mike and Mike: What do you know now about the NCAA investigation?

Pitino: I know very little now and very little then. There are a few things. (Noted that most head coaches don't visit player dorms). I did visit Minardi Hall for a number of reasons. We had film there right before games and then also a breakfast with a recruit sometimes and his family. So I would say before games and a couple times a month during those times I saw nothing unusual. Girlfriends and sisters allowed to visit. So the chances of a coach seeing anything if something was going on would be minimal. Now that's all I know about the situation.

The thing that is deeply disturbing me about it all, because it took away so many dreams of our fans, administration, us. We are the number one revenue producer in college basketball for 15 straight years according to Forbes. We are the number one watched community; Louisville has the highest TV ratings for college basketball. 

All those people, fans, players are terribly hurt and the thing that hurts the most is we keep asking the question why. Why was this done? And that's what really eats at all of us, because there's no head coach in college basketball that would (learn about) this type of behavior and then not immediately fire or discipline anybody who was involved and how it didn't get back to anybody at anytime is mind-boggling to me. So we're gonna let the NCAA fully investigate, and hopefully they come up with the right answer because it's puzzling to a lot of us.

Mike and Mike: People think this would somehow get to you?

Pitino: You have your dorm security people, then you have your grad assistants. One unfortunate one was Andre McGee, whose sole responsibility was to make sure the kids get to school on time, get up in the morning when they have some type of presentation or they have breakfast with the head coach. Then we've got another grad assistant. So we did have people in place and the one person with sole responsibility to make sure they do the right things, unfortunately, was AG. So that was the problem there.

Mike and Mike: Any contact with McGee?

Pitino: When this first broke, I went to my nephews, managers, players, and assistant coach. I became so paranoid about how did this happen. Then I was told by the enforcement committee to stop, that's their job to investigate, not my job. I immediately stopped. It comes across in his or her minds as trying to intimidate witnesses, and obviously that's not what I was trying to do, I was just asking the question: did you ever see anybody come through here? Did you ever notice anything? Did you ever notice any older people come through here? I was told not to make any phone calls to Andre, to stop asking security, managers. I had to shut it all down.

Mike and Mike: When you meet with the NCAA, if they ask about the stacks of money, where did it come from?

Pitino: As director of operations he was making good money. As a grad asst. he was getting very little money. Now you hear they all had dollar bills. If money was paid for things other than a strip party per se, then a lot of people are in some serious criminal trouble. So that's one of the reasons AG doesn't speak; he is being told by his lawyer not to speak because if you get indicted there's going to be a problem. Right now this other lady is speaking constantly. You don't want to get indicted in this type of situation because the maximum sentences are very, very large. 

Mike and Mike: What are you prepared to say to NCAA?

Pitino: I'm going to tell them, and it will sound a little bizarre to them, that I've been a believer in these rules for over 30 years. Matter of fact, people call me a little bit of a micromanager in terms of. . .we've had the highest GPA for three years now in three different conferences. We get after our guys academically. We run an extremely disciplined program, so there's a tremendous contradiction of this going on and to say it breaks my heart would be putting it mildly, because none of us in the administration, none of us coaches could possibly wonder why.

If I could just get AG in a room for 10 minutes, I would say, 'Why would you do this? What purpose did it serve? We didn't need this.' We're not Kentucky where we're recruiting the one and dones. We're recruiting the Russ Smiths of the world; he's a 2-star athlete who becomes a first team college A-A. Gorgui Deng is starting for the Minnesota Timberwolves but wasn't ranked in the top 25. Terry Rozier playing for the Boston Celtics wasn't ranked in the top 60. So we have a different way we recruit and it didn't make any sense what was going on, how these women infiltrated our program is very disturbing to me and why did AG get tied into this. Only Andre can make those answers, and that's some day I want him to do that. The last text I sent to him, I said, 'Andre, I want one thing and that's for you to be honest and tell the truth.'

Mike and Mike: What do you think when you hear complaints about seeding and the bracket?

Pitino: One time I was positive we were getting a three seed and we wound up getting a five seed and I couldn't believe it, walked out and was very upset. I've also been a number one seed. But what I've learned later on in life is let's just figure out who we're playing, where we're going and I don't care. We were sent out to Portland and Phoenix the year we went to the Final Four; we didn't have a great following, but we had a great time. Sometimes the pressure of your fans can even make it more difficult. We got away from it, we were totally focused. So I don't want to hear too many complaints. South Carolina's not in there and they've got a lot of wins. So does Saint Mary's. So they're the ones should feel bad, not the ones who are in it.

Mike and Mike: How do you look at your first two games?

Pitino: The first thing you do is you break it down into four different areas -- defense, their pressure on defense, and then you look at their offense. Where can you score against them, where are they weak? Where can you get them in foul trouble? Then you break down their out of bounds plays. Everybody always says defense and rebounding wins come NCAA time and they're 100 percent right. Defense and rebounding play a large role.

But something that nobody every mentions is, I believe that passing is one of the major keys to moving on in the NCAA Tournament. You're so well scouted this time of year; they've got every film on you. They know whether you go 78 percent off your right shoulder, 32 percent off your left shoulder. Everything is broken down, so passing is the key. If you can get into the paint and make a pass to the perimeter or a bounce pass or a lob up top to get you a dunk. . .I believe passing leads to better shots, shooting a higher percentage and then makes your defense better because you feel better about yourself when you're shooting a high percentage. So I always emphasize passing, as well as defense and rebounding.

Mike and Mike: Your analysis of North Carolina?

Pitino: They'll hit you with a lot of blitzing type defenses, to use a football term. They'll come after you and they're trapping you on the side, trapping you in the middle and they do a lot of things. But once you get by those initial traps there are a lot of openings. They'll get up in the passing lanes on the wings and deny the ball and once you hit the high post area you'll be able to get a back door. They're extremely well-coached. I think you're going to find a coach who's been there to go to the Final Four, although I have one sleeper pick. I'm very bullish on Virginia as well. Tony Bennett is one of the bright, young stars in our game today. 

Mike and Mike: Your sleeper team?

Pitino: “This is difficult for me because I'm recruiting against them in the first game because my good friend and ex-assistant Mick Cronin is playing them and I'm hoping Mick can win. But I think St. Joe is a big sleeper. They can hurt you a number of different ways. They're like Seton Hall, they're not a fun team to play against. They can bother you so many different ways, do a lot of different things and they've got tough kids who play really hard.

Mike and Mike: The best team Louisville played this season?

Pitino: The team we haven't played well against is Virginia because their defense and offense are really good, they've got great experience and they shoot the ball right. But with Va. you can stay in the game; it's tough to beat them at the end because they do all the right things. I would say when we played UNC I wouldn't have said they're the best team. But right now it's got to be Carolina, Kansas or Mich. St. playing the best basketball. Now Kentucky's got the best backcourt in the nation, and with Tyler Ulis and Murray anything can happen with them in a good way.

Mike and Mike: Your reaction to John Calipari’s statement that the NCAA Coach Cal's statement about bringing UL back to play Kentucky?

Pitino: “Well, I've known John since he was 15 and ever since he got into coaching. That's his MO; he tries to make the world being against him. He does the same thing that John Thompson did at Georgetown -- the world's against us. Wherever he's going, he'll probably stay 30 miles outside of town because the hotel's not good enough. Nothing's ever good enough, the world's against us. He gets to his players and says we should be seeded much higher; matter of fact, how dare they put Kansas the No. 1 seed, it should be Kentucky. And he'll have all those guys fired up. He did that great at UMass. It's sort of difficult for him to buy into that at Kentucky, but he's still trying to do it.”

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