Dear Coach Rick Pitino,
It is truly hard to image entering the KFC Yum! Center and not, first hearing you, then seeing you on the sidelines. You have been the figure head of the University of Louisville’s basketball team for much of my childhood.
What has transpired the past few years under your reign, it breaks my heart. Whether you knew about the issues, that’s irrelevant at this point.
It has been hard to be a Louisville Basketball fan… The play on the court has been tremendous. Your play calling, flawless at its best. But, the constant harassment from other fan bases… It was hard.
But, I’m not here to bash you for the shortcomings or blame you for the scandals. On the contrary, I am here to thank you.
When I was a kid, you were the coach of the dreaded Kentucky Wildcats. You were essentially public enemy number one in Louisville. While many admired your coaching and the ability to take a team from scandal ridden to championship caliber in a few years, you were still the coach of our most hated rival.
I’ll always remember watching your arrive in Louisville. The local news stations followed your van from the airport to campus.
In two seasons, you took Louisville from a losing record to a NCAA appearance… Something the fans had not seen in a while. You continued to take us to the big dance. It became a norm every March.
During your tenure you took us to 14 NCAA tournaments, seven Sweet 16s, six Elite Eights, three Final Fours and one National Championship.
You brought us incredible players. Otis George, Larry O’Bannon, Francisco Garcia, Taquan Dean, Juan Palacios, Ellis Myles, David Padgett, T. Will (he’s a mess, but we love him), Earl Clark, Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Samardo Samuels, Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva, SVT, Gorgui, Elisha “the bullet” Justice, Russdiculous, Tim Henderson, Luke Hancock, Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear, Chane, Trez, Q, Nanu, Anas Mahmoud, Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, Donovan Mitchell, Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch… & so many more.
Your games were never boring (excluding Virginia, but that wasn’t your fault). You coached Louisville to thrilling wins over Tennessee, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Memphis. Battles against Marquette and a win in the Miracle on Main. You broke Syracuse’s 2-3 and crushed the No. 1 Orange to shut down Freedom Hall. We had spirited rivalries with West Virginia, Notre Dame, UConn and Michigan State. In 2012, you led a team that nobody thought could make it past the first round of the tournament to the Final Four. The following season, you led Louisville to an emotional journey to the school’s third National Championship.
When it was great, it was perfect. It felt like we were flying sky high. Unfortunately, we got too close to the sun.
Coach Pitino, I don’t blame you for anything that happened. It breaks my heart to see you, a Hall of Fame Coach, leave the game you love in this manner. It’s not right. But, here we are.
I hate to see you go because you have brought this fan base so many memories. I’m so thankful for those unforgettable memories.
I just want to say thank you. For bringing this program back to relevance, for taking risks, for dedicating yourself to young men, for changing their lives.
Thank you for the timeless players like Peyton Siva and hometown hero’s like Quentin Snyder.
I wish you the best of luck in all future endeavors.
I will truly miss you.
A Lifelong Louisville Fan
PS David Padgett will never rock a white suit like you.