— Patrick Towles (@patty_ice_8) December 29, 2017
Even on the day the University of Kentucky appears in a football bowl game, former players think about THE RIVALRY. The BASKETBALL rivalry.
It’s game day: Louisville vs. Kentucky in college basketball. The usual hate is there, but something else is missing.
Polarizing figure Rick Pitino, who coached both teams over the past 30 years, has been fired. Now UK Coach John Calipari faces upstart UofL Coach David Padgett. It’ll be fun but it won’t be the same.
Both coaches have stirred it up over the years. Calipari once declared that Kentucky was a rare situation because it had no major in-state rivalry.
After a last second loss in 2015, Pitino flipped the bird toward UK fans while exiting Rupp Arena.
One year earlier, Pitino refused to speak with the media after Calipari’s Cats clipped the Cards on Louisville’s home floor. Thousands of UK fans were all over the Yum Center and it angered Pitino.
A transcript of our 2014 radio chat a few days after the loss to UK is posted further down this page.
For a more current look at the mindset of Rick Pitino, here’s the transcript of our radio conversation from two months ago. Pitino had been fired but he agreed to come on the air to defend former athletic director Tom Jurich, who had also been recently fired by the University of Louisville.
TRANSCRIPT | Rick Pitino says ‘outsiders’ at U of L ‘killed my dreams’
Posted: Oct 25, 2017 6:27 PM EDT
Updated: Oct 25, 2017 9:48 PM EDT
By David Schuh
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Fired University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino defended his former boss, Tom Jurich, on Wednesday on 840 WHAS Radio with Terry Meiners.
Pitino spoke for more than 30 minutes by phone from Tampa, Florida. Below is the full transcript from the interview:
Meiners: “You and I have been communicating off and on here since this firing at U of L, and I know you wanted to start off with, and I’ve got follow-up questions, but you want to fire back at Greg Postel’s termination letter to Tom Jurich. Go ahead.”
Pitino: “First of all Terry, Greg Postel I’ve never met in my life. … I went back and asked Tom and Kenny, ‘Have you ever met Greg Postel in your life since you’ve been here?’ And they said, ‘Absolutely not.’ So he has not been connected with the athletic program. And if you think he’s coming out with these accusations and that one or two members of the board of trustees aren’t behind him prodding him to do this, you’re mistaken.”
He doesn’t know Tom Jurich at all. He doesn’t know the things that Tom has done. I don’t believe he’s been an athletic supporter at all for the last 20 years that Tom has been AD. So this is not him speaking. He’s a nice man, and this is not him speaking. So let’s clear that up first … It’s a couple of board members. You probably know better than me. David Grissom and people like that. He’s the chairman of the board.
By doing what they did yesterday to Tom Jurich not only ignites the fans and polarizes the fans to really, really mistrust the leadership at the university to a man that’s just done so much from the Big East to the ACC to the facilities to everybody saying he’s one of the top AD’s in the business: Top 10 in women’s basketball, Top 10 in men’s basketball … and football, Top 5 in soccer, swimming, diving, track, you name it … baseball. It’s incredible the job he has done, and to disparage him like this, all you’re doing is taking the opposite of North Carolina. North Carolina stood together to go against and battle with the NCAA and prevail. We’re going in there, and we’re just breaking everything apart, sabotaging basketball, sabotaging the appeal and just really killing everything that the players fought for to make our program special. It truly breaks my heart what they did with that letter to Tom yesterday.
They’re trying not to pay him to cut his contract and do all those things. But you’re hurting the community. You’re hurting the team. You’re hurting everything about the University of Louisville and, quite frankly, the people behind this aren’t Louisville fans, don’t have the passion that Tom, myself and the players have for the University of Louisville and the other coaches who are in total support of Tom Jurich.
You’re breaking apart the community. You’re breaking apart the fan base. You’re breaking apart the donors. You’re hurting the basketball program down the road. This is a blueprint of how not to deal with the NCAA and the community and what you’re doing with a extremely popular athletic director who’s done so much for the town and the university.”
Meiners: “Do you think this puts the ACC membership in jeopardy?”
Pitino: Absolutely not. The ACC president and the other athletic directors just love Tom Jurich. No, I think they’re all really, really looking at this and saying ‘Where is this person coming from? He doesn’t know Tom Jurich making these statements.’
You don’t do that to this athletic director. You don’t disparage him like that and demean him and pass ugly rumors about him. He just, he doesn’t deserve it. He’s a great family man. He’s a wonderful person — great leader. He’s not a bully. You know, it just turns my stomach to see something written like that about him.
It hurts us going forward with our appeal. And I keep saying ‘us.’ I guess I’m no longer part of it, so I’ll stop saying ‘us.'”
Meiners: “Is this their way of saying we’re cleaning house?”
Pitino: “Well, we walked in the last time with Chuck Smirt. Didn’t know any of the people on the committee, didn’t do our research. We walked into that. Taking probation, taking all these sanctions – limited scholarships and everything. How’d we fare, Terry?
It did the opposite of what North Carolina did, didn’t we? … Unless you stick together and stick to your principles that we are a highly compliant not only basketball program but athletic program. Now, reading that letter yesterday you wouldn’t think that. I mean, if the NCAA took a look at that letter, you wouldn’t think that we’re a compliant, highly ethical athletic program. I happen to know we are. Regardless of what was said.
Terry, nobody got indicted. No system coaches got indicted. Nothing happened yet. The facts haven’t been out. They rushed to judgment. They killed my dreams. They killed some of the players’ dreams who wanted to play for me. They killed one of the top recruiting classes in the history of my tenure without any facts going on. Now that’s OK. I’m a big boy, and I’ll land on my feet the right way when the truth comes out.
But it’s not about me. It’s about the program, the town, the fans, the university and what they deserve. And these are outsiders coming in and doing this to our program.”
Meiners: “You mean David Grissom, who lives here in Louisville, not technically an outsider…”
Pitino: “I’m not sure if he’s given millions of dollars to the university. That’s not my call. I’m sure he’s a very good businessman, but I do know one thing: what went on yesterday and what’s gone on recently in disparaging Tom Jurich is the opposite of what you should do. You can try to save money and try to do whatever you want to contractually, but you don’t do that in the eyes of the community, in the eyes of the coaches that are there. What do you think Dan McDonnell, the baseball coach, or Bobby Petrino, the football coach, all these people who have stood by Tom and are behind Tom 100 percent, are going to say? ‘Boy, if they’re doing that to Tom, what’s going to happen to me?”
Meiners: “There’s a note in here about a willful lack of supervision of head coaches. Were you supervised? Were there annual reviews of you and your assistant coaches?”
Pitino: “Terry, there were weekly reviews. This is a witch hunt of epic proportions on that man and his family. He is the best athletic director in the game. He does everything by the book. He’s the best in the business. Now, did he want to come in and watch me coach? No. He’s not a basketball person as far as that’s concerned. His expertise probably lies with football and baseball, as far as knowing the subject matter, more than basketball. But did he meet with me? Did he go over the rules? Did he talk to compliance? Was he behind me 100 percent? Did we talk weekly about a lot of different things? Yes. Did I bring every recruit to meet him that I wanted to impress? Yes, without question. And by the way, how would this president know if Tom did any of that? He was just hired as an interim president who had no knowledge of athletics. How would be possibly know any of that?”
Meiners: “I heard someone say that you’re never stepping foot in Kentucky again … legal issues aside. Is that true?”
Piitno: “Look, it’s not about me. This is about Tom Jurich. I walked in the office, I was so pumped up about this team this year. Just the greatest group of young men I think I’ve encountered in my 40-plus years. I wanted to coach them, wanted to lead them to the promised land. I’m happy that at least David (Padgett) has taken over. I just wanted to coach these guys in the worst way. I walked, I wasn’t asked anything about what went on, did I have any knowledge of it. All I was told was, ‘Will you resign?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said, ‘I don’t even know what’s going on,’ They said, ‘You need to clear the premises.’ I said, ‘Well I need to speak to my team.’ And I spoke to my team, went upstairs, and they were changing the locks on my door and kept it locked for three weeks. I couldn’t get any of my personal belongings. So I don’t want to get bitter, because as I said before, this is not the fans, this is not the University of Louisville that I’ve known for 16 years. This is a group of strangers. I don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish, but it’s polarizing the university and separating people, and we need to come together with this. I have to stop saying ‘we.’ They need to come together, fight this appeal the right way, because this is a highly compliant athletic department.
Meiners: “They used the phrases ‘dereliction of duty’ and ‘willful misconduct.’ Is that possibly because someone was asked to fire you, Tom Jurich was asked to fire you or push you out or make you uncomfortable to leave, and you refused to do that?”
Pitino: “Terry, Tom asked me to come to a board of trustees meeting. I went to it. I thought it was about strategy of the appeal. It was highly evident when I left there that I didn’t have any supporters on the board of trustees. It was quite obvious. I didn’t know why I was there. I thought it was to talk about the appeal. When I left, I went back the following morning and met with my staff. I told them, ‘Guys, don’t even think, after the meeting I had with the board of trustees, don’t even think about jaywalking here in the community. You make sure you are highly compliant with the NCAA rules. This board of trustees does not want me there. I knew it when I walked out. I’ve also had statements from the current staff, two people working for me, that every single day in meetings I told them to be totally compliant to every rule, from David Padgett to every member of that staff. And they all went on and made that statement. Unfortunately, one of the assistant coaches did not abide by that, and he will suffer the consequences very similar to what Andre McGee did for his actions.”
Meiners: “Date that for me, though. When were you going into the board of trustees? What part of the year?”
Pitino: “It was about a month ago, maybe six weeks ago.”
Meiners: “So you felt like you knew they were putting things in place to push you out?”
Pitino: “I walked, I felt like I was in a totally different program. Those people didn’t know me, didn’t know what I was about. They were totally against me. I felt it. One person on the board, who’s very high up, said to me, ‘What do you think about the 17 Level I violations against our basketball program?’ I looked at Tom, I said, ‘Well, I know of two, and one is to a (graduate assistant) that they gave a Level 1. The other one was failure to monitor Andre McGee. No lack of institutional control.’ And he’s saying 17. He’s on Skype, and he’s saying 17. I didn’t have a clue to what he was talking about … He tried to humiliate me, and I ignored him. I’m a lot older, and I ignored him.”
Meiners: “We keep using the phrase ‘non-compliant,’ well clearly this is. These are violations that we’re talking about. Did you get all your guys together after the stripper problem … and read them the riot act or scare the hell out of them to say don’t let anything happen? Or did you just wait until this year after that board meeting?”
Pitino: ”I had statement from all the coaches. Every single meeting, four to five times a week, I covered it … knew rules, abide by it, 100 percent. Terry, my job is on the line. I want to coach this team badly. I think we’re sitting on something special here. It would behoove me to mention it every single second of every meeting. And David Padgett knows it, Logan knows it, R.J. Evans knows it, who’s new … Kenny Johnson knew it, Jordan Fair knew it, everybody knew it because we said it at every single meeting.
Meiners: “Why in the hell would Jordan Fair go into a hotel room, though, with a shoe guy and unknowingly with an FBI agent, and do what they say ‘Coach 1’ did?”
Pitino: “Well, I don’t have the facts to any of that, and I’m not going to hang him out to dry. Whatever he did, it was a wrong move, and he needs to explain his behavior. Because here’s a young man I took, and I checked his background, vetted him out, everyone spoke extremely high of him, from Coach Bellato on. He was a high school coach making $13,000 a year. I loved his passion. I watched him coach. I loved his hunger. And he did the wrong thing by stepping in that room, and he has to speak up on that matter and not hide behind lawyers as well. Because he has not been indicted like those other four assistant coaches. So I don’t know what he’s guilty of, Terry. I don’t know. They tried to include me in on the conversation. That was totally ludicrous. Why? I don’t know … mentioning my name on that.”
Meiners: “Right. You weren’t arrested, but they’re using your name. But you’re ‘Coach 2’ in there too, and you’ve already told the public what your calls were about.”
Pitino: “Let me ask you a question, Terry. Why do you think they put my name in there? I know I’m totally innocent. I know I had nothing to do with any of that. Why do you think they put my name in there?”
Meiners: “To use your name, I’m guessing, to use your name to call attention to their investigation.”
Pitino: “Well, you didn’t see the four guys who were arrested in handcuff in headlines, did you?”
Meiners: “I saw their names in subheads.”
Pitino: “Yeah, but you didn’t see it all over America in headlines. It was only one person put in headlines all over the country.”
Meiners: “In Greg Postel’s letter, at least, they’re saying non-compliant…”
Pitino: “There is absolutely zero truth with that letter, and he wouldn’t know whether Tom Jurich was compliant or non-compliant. He was not part of the athletic program. I’ve been here 16 years … every coach is extremely compliant. The best coaches I’ve ever worked with in my lifetime is at the University of Louisville. They are very compliant. You don’t send Churk Smrt around to speak to assistant coaches around there to find out if they’re compliant. That’s absolutely nonsense. This is highly, highly ethical program. Were there mistakes made in my judgment of hiring two people? One-hundred percent, I take ownership of that … This conversation is not about me, I’m a big boy. I’ll move on with my head held high because I know I’ve done the right things. I try to find something good with all this, and it’s very difficult because I’ve lost the love of my life, so to speak, in my players. But the response I’ve gotten from my Providence players, from Kentucky players and the University of Louisville players kept me up at night crying for about 30 days. So the love that they’ve shown me is getting me through these tough times. My head is going to be held high.”
Meiners: “What are you owed by the University of Louisville going forward?”
Pitino: “This is not the University of Louisville that I’m dealing with right now. These are not the fans I’ve gotten to know, it’s not the people I’ve gotten to know. I have a contract. I signed that contract. I was not leaving under any circumstances. Tom Jurich has a contract. But this is not what they owe me. This is what they owe Tom Jurich. Forget me. I’m gone. I’m out of it, so let me rest in peace.”
Meiners: “Sheryl Snyder, the attorney for Tom Jurich, said today that U of L should have dismissed him without cause and just paid his contract out instead of doing it with cause and just fighting. So let’s go back to point one: Do you think all of this firing of you and Tom Jurich is really about saving money? You guys made a lot of money here.”
Pitino: “The smear campaign against Tom Jurich is about mediating, and that’s unfair. You need to build a statue of Tom Jurich, not smear him, OK? So that’s the first thing. The second thing is if you give a contract, you honor it. Now, John Marinatto was the Providence College athletic director and a very close friend of mine. He got fired from Providence College because a new president came in. And he came to me for advice and help. I said, ‘John, stop getting bitter. Stop getting upset. I know it’s the love of your life.’ I never thought it would happen to me. I said, ‘John, a new CEO came in, no different than JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs, and they want their own people in there. So it’s not personal against you if they want their own people in. You have a contract.’ They at Providence College honored that contract and paid that contract. This new board of trustees wants a new AD, a new basketball coach, they honor the contract for the people that got them in the Big East, got them in the ACC, three Final Fours, National Championship … all the things that Tom Jurich has done with every sport, you honor the contract. You don’t disparage him. You don’t spread false rumors about him. You honor him. They don’t have to honor me in any sense. I’m gone. But they need to honor Tom Jurich, and they need to abide by his contract.”
Meiners: “Are you willing to walk away with no money at all from the university?”
Pitino: “I have a contract, Terry. My lawyers are handling my contract. That’s out of my hands … that’s in their hands. I want to coach my basketball team. That’s all I want. If they want to bring me back tomorrow, I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Meiners: “David Padgett is the head coach now, the acting head coach of the University of Louisville. And they had media day today in North Carolina. Did you hear any of the things they guys say or have you just tuned that out?”
Pitino: “I’ve tuned everything [out]. I’m visiting my grandchildren. I’ve tuned everything out. I’ll be rooting for David. I’ll be rooting for the guys every single game. I hope they go on and just have a special season. It’s an unbelievable group, Terry, and I don’t just say it. It’s one of the best groups I’ve ever seen. They’re really special guys.”
Meiners: “Quentin Snider and Anas Mahmoud were the two guys who were the spokespersons for the team, and they both said that Padgett is different in that there’s not the same sort of pressure they feel in practice. I don’t have the exact quote in front me, but I’ll play a sound bite if you want to hear it.”
Pitino: “I don’t, Terry. It’s David’s team now. I coach differently than him, and he’s different than me. He’ll run the same offenses and defenses … you know, any time a coach leaves, the new players will always say, no matter how much they loved the old coach, they’ll say, ‘Hey, it’s different. It’s better. I feel more at ease.’ I’ve been through this 100 times so I know it. I’m all for David. I’m all for the players.”
NEW: Rick Pitino allowed me to share this text. pic.twitter.com/Eubgy2oyXR
— Terry Meiners (@terrymeiners) September 29, 2017
Meiners: “Are you staying away with no contact with any of the players? Is that a legal issue?”
Pitino: “I told them, ‘Listen guys, David played for me. He’s one of you. It’s time to give him all your attention, all your effort. I’m not going to be in contact with you. I’ll be rooting for you. You need to give him every ounce of perspiration you have and go on and win a championship. I love all of you very much. I’m going to miss you terribly.’ And then, obviously, I walked upstairs and was locked out of my office, and two hours later I was in Miami as my new home.”
Meiners: “What do you want to say to all the people who have U of L paraphernalia and citizens of the city of Louisville? They share the same name, the city and the university, it’s prized place here, and they feel sullied by various scandals over the years. What do you say to them now?”
Pitino: “Well, things happen in life, Terry. Things happen. But you need to stick together. When adversity hits and tough times hit, you stick together. You fight the NCAA with principles that you believe in, and you stick by your guns, and you don’t separate everybody, you stay together. You stay together. And you make sure the programs aren’t hurt. Yes, there was a scandal, and Andre McGee did the wrong things. I believe he was the only person behind it. In fact, I don’t know who this lady had with her or without her, I don’t know any of that. I know Andre McGee had two beautiful parents. He was taught the right things by me. Why he did any of that I’ll never know. I’ll never have the answer because, once again, he’s behind lawyers as well, and like Jordan Fair, he has not said anything from this time. So I don’t know that. This scandal is a national scandal in college basketball. None of the coaches at U of L were indicted. None of the coaches right now are being criminally charged with anything … I’m said it happened under my watch. I love the university. I love my players. I don’t believe in doing anything like that. Am I human? Have I made mistakes in my life? Yes I have, and I’ve atoned for my sins. But as far as a professional basketball coach representing the university, I’ve done all the right things and have been totally compliant to the rules. I leave the university with my head high knowing that every individual instruction, every practice, every game, I gave it my all. ”
Meiners: “There was a press conference a few years ago, and you went off on the shoe companies talking about their power and it was ruining the game. You remember that? You just sort of went off for 10-12 minutes on that.”
Piitno: “Yes, because I was only able to recruit a certain segment of the population because shoe companies were directing the players to go to a certain Nike school, Adidas school, Under Armour school. And I didn’t think they had any place in our world. And I also suggested to the NCAA … take the AAUs, take the agents, the shoe companies out of the business. In the summer time, you have a lot of money from Final Fours. Separate the country into four regions. Hire high school coaches to coach. Educate all the parents, bring them in, all the kids in four separate regions, let the colleges come in and evaluate. You run it. Not the agents, not the AAU, not shoe companies – you run it by letting all the college coaches come in and evaluate four different regions. And then you educated the families by all the rules. They thought it’d be a great idea, they just didn’t know if they’d have the manpower. I said, ‘You don’t have to. Just get people to organize it like the Five-Star Basketball Camp. And just organize it the right way, and then you can educate … you can bring them all in and you can educate the rights and the wrongs and the hazards of doing the wrong things.’”
Meiners: “Well the way you talked that day, it made it sound like you know things that go on with shoe companies. If Louisville did nothing improper or Jordan Fair was aware of something … if there are things you know about other situations around America, wouldn’t that make Adidas want to settle with you … because you are suing them?”
Pitino: “A lot of times you hear things. Sometimes, assistant coaches say to you, ‘Oh we lost a player to a school. They were bought by that school.’ You hear things like that. I’ve always felt like that’s an excuse of losing a basketball player. There’s no factual information right now. I don’t know. Did Adidas give any money to anybody? I don’t know that. All I did was, I walked in, I didn’t know any facts, I was dismissed. Now nobody else, the people in handcuffs, none of their head coaches were even dismissed at all. They said, ‘We’re not going to rush to judgment. We’ll wait and see.’ Our entire recruiting class, which was going to be unbelievable, was totally broken up. And they’re not going to be able to sign a quality player because of that. And such a rush to judgment. Why? Let the facts come out, let me coach this team. If you see I did anything improper, fire me on the spot. But let the facts come out. Don’t just fire a coach that’s given 16 years of everything he’s had for the program and the community without any facts coming out.”
Meiners: “How are you going to rebuild the name Rick Pitino?”
Pitino: “I don’t have to. Because my family knows, every assistant coach who’s worked for me (knows). And if I could ever share what my players have texted me and said to me … my players are my legacy: what they think of me. I know what I’ve done in coaching with the help of my assistant coaches and the players. They have made me what I am. If I’ve a great season and won a national championship, I’ve had great players that have dedicated themselves to everything we’ve tried to teach. And that’s exactly what went on hear. So it’s not about me anymore. This phone call is totally about Tom Jurich. It’s totally about this community staying together so we win this appeal. I’ve gotta stop saying ‘we.’ I promise you I won’t say that again.”
Meiners: “Was all your stuff returned to you? You mentioned that earlier in this interview. Did you get everything back that was kept from you when they locked your doors?”
Pitino: “Everything but my children and my wife, they could have everything … I’m getting the stuff shipped out to me: personal belongings, pictures of my players and their uniforms and things like that … those are the most important things to me. My players are my life, and they will always be my life. Nothing will ever take those memories away.”
Meiners: “Are you going to watch University of Louisville basketball games or any university athletic pursuits?”
Pitino: “I’ll be rooting for all the coaches at U of L. I’ll be rooting for my players, David Padgett, I’ll be rooting for them every single game. I want them to go on and win the national championship … David is one of my players. I think the world of him. I hope he has great success and certainly nothing but praying that they go on and have great years.”
Meiners: “Coach Pitino, great talking to you, we’ll do it again down the road.”
Pitino: “Terry, probably we won’t, but you’ve been a good friend and I thank you for having me. I’ll say goodbye to you for a long time, and you be well and say hello to your beautiful wife.”
Meiners: “Wait a minute, am I supposed to lose your phone number now? Don’t say that.”
Pitino: “No, no, I’m talking about professionally on the air. You know you’re always welcome.”
Meiners: “Thanks coach.”
Pitino: “Take care.”
Here’s the Courier Journal transcript of my 2014 conversation with Rick Pitino a few days after losing to John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats. Pitino claimed he didn’t feel well so he skipped the postgame press conference, dodging questions about Louisville’s shortcomings and the abundance of Kentucky fans in the Yum Center.
Transcript: Pitino’s Monday radio appearance
Jeff Greer, @jeffgreer_cj Published 8:32 p.m. ET Dec. 29, 2014
Rick Pitino didn’t have his usual pre-game press conference on Monday, but he did come on Terry Meiners’ afternoon radio show on WHAS-840 to talk UK and Louisville’s next game against Long Beach State.
Here’s the transcript from his radio appearance:
On not talking to the media: I put it out there for any questions and didn’t have any questions. I didn’t want to stand up there with nothing to say. The past two weeks I haven’t been feeling well, and to tell you the truth, I was anxious to get home. I’m feeling a lot better now. I gave them the option to ask questions and nobody had a question. To the victor goes the spoils, and I know Cal will do a lot of talking, so let him take my place.
On if he’s tiring of the rivalry game: No, we ought to play this game. It makes you a better team. I had less worries in the Wilmington team. The media didn’t have any questions. That’s why I went on. When I was up playing Marquette, they went on a run against us and they won five or six straight, and everybody was saying they had our number. And then we turned it around. What we’ve got to do (against UK) is turn it around. When we get the level of player and a deeper bench, we will turn it around. Right now there’s nothing wrong with the game. They do get 6,000 fans in the game. When I pulled up, they had a thousand blue shirts on the concourse waiting to get in. You’ve got to give them credit for it.
On U of L’s shooting woes: They’re a great defensive team. As Cal likes to say about us, they hold and they grab. They play very physical, the type of defense I love to teach and love to see. So you’ve got to give them credit for the physical way they play defense. That’s what made us shoot the low percentage. We did miss nine easy shots. What happens when you miss those easy ones, you get a little tighter. We want to take less than five challenged shots per game … We were 1 for 12 in that game. That’s the one thing we don’t want to do. Statistically, we’ve shot less than 22 percent when take challenged shots.
We’re going to make some changes to our lineup because of that. We’ve got to get some high-percentage shots in our offense. Offensively, the biggest weakness wasn’t passing. The biggest weakness in this game was our screening. Our inside people did about as poor of a job of screening — when you’re playing against an aggressive team that is going to play very aggressive, you have screen them properly. In football, if you want to have a great running game, you have to have great blocking … We did a very poor job of screening in that game.
On physical play vs. UK: Our strategy was to play that type of game. We knew they were going to be a rough team. They’re the best defensive team in the country. You don’t get that by being soft. You get that by being aggressive, blocking shots and hitting people. That’s how you become Virginia or Kentucky, a great defensive team. We knew that. We wanted to keep them out of transition. We felt if we could keep them out of transition, we could win. We didn’t know if we could keep them off the backboard. That’s one thing we haven’t been able to do the last three years, and we didn’t do a good job of that on Saturday.
On this UK team vs. the 1996 UK team: It’s totally different. There’s no answer to it. You may have an opinion. And I may have an opinion. And someone else may have an opinion. But it’s not a valid opinion because you’re never going to play. This Kentucky basketball team is the best defensive team I’ve seen in the last 20 years — in terms of they way they get over screens, and the physicality of the way they play, the way they block shots. The great things about it is, the Harrisons aren’t playing well against defense, so what do they do? Bring in the other two guys to see if they can solve their defense and they bring in Ulis and Booker. They had great games. Foul trouble’s not going to bother them. Fatigue’s not going to bother them. They don’t have a defensive weakness. They’re very well-drilled and they can block shots.
It’s the best defensive team I’ve seen in quite some time. Someone asked me, ‘Will they lose?’ They have played great in the big games. They played great against Kansas, Texas, UCLA, they played great defense against us, North Carolina. Where they haven’t played great was against Columbia or Buffalo, so if they were to lose, it’s not going to be for a game that is earmarked on their schedule. They’re ready for that. It’s going to be a night where there’s nobody in the stands — well, that doesn’t really happen for Kentucky because they bring 5,000 people — but it could happen in a place that you couldn’t expect, if it happens at all.
On UK fans at the Yum Center: There’s not a whole lot I can control with that. I wish our fans who aren’t going to be at the game would sell it back to the university. We’ll pay double the amount on the ticket if they sell it back to us. If the ticket’s $25, we’ll pay $50. It’s nothing I can do. I can’t complain about it. I’ve never complained about blue shirts because I’ve coached there. I know what they do. I’ve witnessed it on the road.
The one thing I can tell you is, when I said Kentucky isn’t a great homecourt advantage, you thought I lived on a different planet. I said Ohio State would be much better. I think our fans now — and the media — know what I was talking about. You’ll see great atmosphere for the Duke game, the Carolina game, the Miami game. You’ll see a great atmosphere, a great homecourt advantage. The Kentucky game is not that way. I was sort of caught off-guard by the media’s response to that. I thought it was quite obvious.
On Long Beach State: We believed that we prepared and we were going to win that game. Not that we didn’t have respect of their basketball ability, they certainly have a great basketball team. But we believed we were going to win that game, and we didn’t. So right now, especially in this state, they’re going to get it wherever they go. They’ll get it from the Kentucky fan who’s going to mock them and they’ll get it from the Louisville fan who’s disappointed. That being said, we all have jobs to do. I base the season on reaching your potential come NCAA tournament time.
Right now, we’ve got a very difficult Long Beach State team. They’ve played at BYU, at Xavier, they played Xavier again and beat them, they played at UCLA, they played Washington, they played at San Diego State, they played at Texas in a war, at St. John’s and at Syracuse. They’ve made $800,000 in guarantees, but not only are they getting the money, they’re playing the toughest schedule in the country. They’re going to be more than ready for us. If we don’t bring it, if we bring a North Carolina Wilmington performance to that game, we will lose.
On the starting lineup change: I’d rather not say. I’m going to hold the quarterback until the last moment.