* Views and comments are all from Jeff Nunn and do not reflect the views of Cardinal Sports Zone or their staff
Rick Pitino said a whole lot of things during his time here in Louisville. He was known for his press conferences that were filled with hyperbole. He used those press conferences to control the narrative through the media, send messages to motivate his team, and sometimes he just wanted to shine in the spotlight. Yet, no matter how many times he exaggerated injuries, didn’t tell us the whole truth, or just flat out lied to us, he was 100% right about one thing he said. Rick said multiple times that, “We live in a Microwave society.” He said, “So, that’s just the way society is today. Society is not about building, society is not about being patient and growing the right way. Everybody has to have it now. And it’s not just college basketball, it’s in all walks of life.”
After reading all the negative comments on social media about Coach Mack, I couldn’t help but revisit those comments made by Pitino and it’s amazing how many of you have proven his comments to be true. Yes, many of you are calling for Mack’s job after just three seasons.
I’m not going to try and tell you how to fan. I’m not going to try to tell you your passion has boiled over too far. I’m not going to tell you to go root for another team. I just believe that it’s way too early to call for his job. It is fair to be disappointed and expect better.
I totally understand your frustration. Personally, I enjoy a fast-paced team that likes to run and play intense, in your face, defense. I like a team with a very high motor that plays all out the whole game – mainly because that’s how I played. Unfortunately, that is not the style my coach plays. However, just because my coach doesn’t play that style doesn’t mean he can’t coach.
I also know the expectation for a program with the history and tradition of Louisville is to never miss the tournament. Making the NCAA Tournament should not be a season goal. It should just be expected. Is that being a spoiled rotten fan base? Maybe. Yet, that’s where we are. I also think it’s the mentality you need to have to be a champion.
While some of you are ready to fire our coach because our team missed the tournament, I’m not there yet.
First of all, I know he has four years left on his contract. Since we had to pay Pitino, Jurich, Petrino, and give money back to the NCAA, coupled with the loss in revenue due to Covid, Louisville doesn’t have the money to buy him out.
Second, I know that despite his success on the recruiting trail, he has missed out on some top level guys due to the impending sanctions that are being held over our heads. Every coach recruiting against us will say to the recruit, “you don’t want to go to Louisville, they are getting ready to get a postseason ban.” If Mack lands one or two of those guys, there is a chance one could have been a superstar/game-changer that would’ve completely rewritten the last two seasons. Imagine having a Carlik Jones-type of player on the ’19-’20 team.
Many people want to use the Covid pauses as an excuse as well. Others will say that all teams had to deal with it. That is true, but it hit some teams harder than others. Louisville had games vs UNC Greensboro, NC State, Boston College, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and 2 against Syracuse canceled. That’s a total of 8 games not played. I feel confident Louisville could have won at least 5 or maybe 6 of those games. That would have likely been enough to get into the tournament.
So, in my opinion, there are a few reasons to explain this subpar season. However, there are also some things that I can’t give you a good reason why they happened.
The thing that bothers me the most is losing by 45 to UNC. It’s understandable to not be sharp after such a long pause, but there is absolutely no reason to not have enough respect for yourself or heart to play hard all the way until the clock says 0:00. At least, that’s how I was raised to play and that’s what we have come to expect in our Louisville teams.
Louisville has had two losses by 35 points or more in a single season three times:
1918-19 — 36 points at Centre, 43 points vs. Centre
1938-39 — 45 points at Bradley, 45 points at Cincinnati
2020-21 — 37 points at Wisconsin, 45 points at North Carolina
— Kelly Dickey (@RealCardGame) February 21, 2021
Another stat that bothers me and needs to change quickly is how the Cards have fizzled at the end of the last three seasons. Louisville is 13-16 in February and March since Mack took over.
For me, my support remains with Mack. I’m willing to have a little leniency until after the NCAA sanctions are concluded and all punishments served. But after that, it’s Cardinal basketball as we expect or let the coaching search begin. Again, I’m not telling you that you should feel the same, but I think calling for his job right now is a bit premature and is an example of the microwave society Rick was talking about.
If I was granted an interview with Rick Pitino, the first thing I would ask is how he feels about people calling for Mack’s job after just three seasons. I feel sure Rick would say give Mack some time.
And as far as Rick goes, many of you think I hate him.
I’ll say this, while I would never welcome him back, you can’t deny he was one of the best to ever roam the sidelines. He is amazing on the court, but unfortunately for him, a coach’s job is more that just Xs and Os. If you talk to any of his former players, they would walk through fire for him. Rick loved his guys and treated them like his children. That’s commendable, but Rick loved himself above all and wanted to win more than anything. That led to some off-the-court decisions that brought disgrace to our program.
It doesn’t have to be that you are either for or against Rick. It’s okay to respect his coaching ability and be upset with how he left our program. I’m thankful for the good times he brought us, but his time here has passed. I have a coach right now. I could care less how Iona does. I follow them as much as I followed Texas when Charlie Strong left or Michigan State when John L Smith left. If they win, great. If they lose, great. Don’t care. I’m a Louisville Cardinal fan.
As Always, GO CARDS!