CRAWFORD | Top five takeaways from Pitino's spring news conference
In a 35-minute discussion with reporters, Louisville coach Rick Pitino talked about the University of Louisville's upcoming schedule, his speculation on additional NCAA sanctions, and next season's game against Kentucky.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino doesn't often use notes when speaking with reporters, but he sat down for a news conference on Tuesday and pulled out a piece of university note paper with some items scribbled on it.
From it, he read a list of accomplishments by U of L athletic programs over the past season, and said, "Things have been quite remarkable this year. Obviously we've been through some tough times (in men's basketball) but we're putting it behind us, with what we think is one of the most difficult schedules we will play in my tenure."
From there Pitino went through his roster, the schedule, and other thoughts on next season's team, and more. Here are five highlights:
1. QUENTIN SNIDER AND MANGOK MATHIANG NAMED CAPTAINS. Pitino has tabbed senior Mangok Mathiang and junior point guard Quentin Snider as the captains for next season's team.
Mathiang was a captain last season and averaged averaged 7.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots in the first 10 games before a broken foot sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Snider was second on the team in minutes played as a sophomore and averaged 9.4 points and a team-best 3.5 assists per game.
"Both young men deserve it," Pitino said. "Mangok isn't young anymore, but Q is. Mangok is an emotional leader. Q is going to be the quarterback of the basketball team. He has come a long way basketball-wise and leadership-wise, and I know he'll do an outstanding job of that.
2. PITINO EXPECTS NO MORE NCAA PENALTIES. Both Chinanu Onuaku at the NBA combine and Canyon Barry, a fifth-year transfer who went elsewhere, expressed concerns that more NCAA sanctions could be coming for U of L, which self-imposed scholarship reductions for coming seasons and a postseason ban for last year, but Pitino doesn't share that opinion. When asked if he thought more penalties are on the way, he said he doesn't think so.
"I'm personally not (concerned). No," Pitino said. "But that doesn't mean anything. That's just my feelings. I think that we've paid a very serious price. You know, I say we're the most profitable program in the country, the most valuable program in the country, forgetting all the other things, no NCAA, limited recruiting, sanctions, embarrassment, everything, we've lost millions of dollars, as well, that you don't realize. . . . from a lot of revenue that would have been created by going to the NCAA Tournament. We felt we had a legitimate chance of being a Final Four contender and winning a national championship. You go to a Final Four, it means a lot for your future merchandise-wise, as well as promoting your university. It's a big deal."
Pitino said he hasn't heard a great deal of concern from recruits, Barry's thoughts aside.
"We're off to a great start recruiting wise," he said. "What we're planning right now is taking those two scholarships (from self-imposed reductions) and taking that penalty right now. We want to get everything behind us. It was a very difficult year emotionally. It was very difficult for all of us, and we'd like to put every, single thing about this year behind us. We'd like the past to be, sometimes you cherish the past, and other times you'd like to forget the past. We'd like to forget this."
3. ONUAKU CONSULTED PITINO LITTLE. Last Wednesday, as Onuaku was making his final decision on whether to stay in the draft or return to U of L, there were some mixed messages from Pitino and Onuaku. Pitino acknowledged Tuesday that Onuaku didn't consult him a great deal about the decision.
" Different people have different ways," Pitino said. "He has a brother that he relies on for advice. I was like a big brother to Terry (Rozier), and to Earl (Clark) and T-Will (Terrence Williams) and some of those guys, and Russ (Smith) and Peyton (Siva). But certain families rely on certain people. I was not with Montrezl (Harrell), either, and with a guy like (Jamal) Mashburn I'm a business partner of his today. Doesn't mean I don't root for them, but some people rely on their parents more than coaches, and there's nothing wrong with that."
Pitino did say he thinks Onuaku has a chance to work himself into the first round, and that he hopes he does.
"There are a lot of things in Chinanu's favor that I know went into his thinking," he said. "No. 1 is that this is not a strong draft, not at all, and they say that next year's draft will be very strong. So it is a good time for him to strike, and hopefully do what Terry Rozier did, go from the second round to the first round because of his workouts. He had some problems with the physical at the combines and hopefully that was taken care of and he's now moving forward. We're very excited for the possibility of him moving up in the draft, and we wish him nothing but the best and thank him for his hard work and dedication to our program."
4. PITINO EXPECTS UK FANS TO 'GET IN.' Pitino acknowledged that the annual rivalry game with UK will be played during the week, on Dec. 21, instead of on the weekend, and will happen before Christmas. This is largely because ESPN owns rights to the game when it is played in Louisville, as opposed to CBS, which owns the game when it is played in Lexington.
Otherwise, he said, the scheduling change should have no bearing on the game.
" I think it definitely means that we're going to win. It's a major factor in us winning," Pitino said, joking. "No, it's a weeknight? It will not make a difference. It'll still be sold out. They'll still get 5,000-6,000 of their fans in somehow, buying the place in, and no matter what the money you can't keep them out."
5. PREVIEWING THE 2016-17 SCHEDULE. Calling the schedule "as difficult as any we've had in my time here," Pitino ran through the non-conference portion of the 2016-17 schedule. His scheduling comments in their entirety:
"What we tried to do with the schedule was make it as difficult as any time in my 15 years," he said. "You do that by not only playing the likes of Indiana, Kentucky and the Battle 4 Atlantis, but you do it also by really researching the teams, who they have coming back, where they ranked in the RPI the year prior. Take two teams that we'll open up the season with: Evansville and William and Mary. They were ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI, they have two and three starters back.
"The Battle 4 Atlantis you all know about. Then Purdue is, when we found out we were playing them (in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge), one of their players decided to come back (from the draft), and then another of their players decided to come back. They'll probably be ranked top seven in the nation and they finished 17th in the RPI. They'll probably be ranked in the top 10, top 15.
"Grand Canyon won 27 games. We wanted a tough road game. We watched them on tape. They sell out their building. It'll be a big game for them and will prepare us for the ACC. Should be a sold-out place and they had it rolling last year and will have three starters back. They were much better than the team that came in here, we talked about after the game, they played on a Thursday night, traveled on Friday and then played at noon on a Saturday. That was not indicative of how good they are.
"We'll also play Eastern Kentucky, we've added them to the schedule, as well. . . . Just got to iron out some things but we're going to play Indiana on New Year's Eve, don't know the time yet. Early afternoon. . . . UK was obviously moved before Christmas, to Dec. 21, then the ACC opener will be around Dec. 28. We'll play two exhibition games against Bellarmine and Kentucky Wesleyan."
There was no mention of continuing the series with Western Kentucky. Pitino said because of his team's depth, he wants it to emulate the style of his 1996 Kentucky national championship team, though he added, "by no means do we have that talent."
A year ago, Pitino said, " I booked the schedule thinking it was totally going to be a rebuilding year, then it turned out not to be. This year's schedule is extremely ambitious, because I think we've got a heck of a team. I think we've got great length, great athleticism."
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