Louisville's Rick Pitino, Edgar Sosa Find Extra Meaning in Madison Square Garden

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2009

NEW YORK—New York City is one big place.

It's a place that breathes basketball and breeds point guards. It's a place that has a built a connection between two of Louisville Basketball's most recognizable faces.

Point guard Edgar Sosa and coach Rick Pitino grew up on New York City's basketball courts honing their skills as point guards.

Sosa and Pitino have returned to "the mecca of basketball" as Sosa describes Madison Square Garden for the grueling Big East Championships. They say this hoops holy land shaped the Louisville duo's basketball career.

"Growing up, everyone wants to play here," Sosa said, "You just have to wait for your chance."

Sosa is running out of chances to impress Big Apple Crowds. In four career games, the junior has scored just 27 points.

Coach Rick Pitino has a rich history with the Garden, and unlike Sosa, hasn't missed opportunities to wow his fellow New Yorkers. It took Pitino just two years to turn the Knicks into division champions after New York finished at the bottom of the Atlantic Division in 1986.

The origin of Pitino's tremendous basketball career goes back much further than winning NBA division titles.

"I can really go back when I was just an average basketball player myself and signed my letter of intent or my scholarship papers on the Garden floor when Julius [Erving] lost to Marquette," Pitino said.

"It' something to be a New York kid and sign scholarship players on the floor of Madison Square Garden."

Sosa says Pitino came back to New York twice to pick up point guards. Sosa saw fellow New Yorker and Dominican Francisco Garcia star under Pitino's reigns.

"I didn't know his [Pitino's] New York background at first, but talking and knowing Francisco, I saw all the good things he [Pitino] did for him," Sosa said.

After Garcia's success in the Blue Grass state, Pitino didn't waste anytime finding another point guard from New York City.

"The first day coaches could come recruit, Pitino said I was the first player he came to visit," Sosa said.

"He talks a lot about growing up in New York. He tells me he was in my same shoes when he was growing up."

Pitino talks to Sosa and the rest of the Cardinals about the staples - defense, respect, and his stories of the Garden.

"One player was wearing slippers here and he yelled at him," Sosa said, "He said don't disrespect the Garden."

"It's great to be around him [Pitino] and I definitely enjoy hearing those things," said guard Jerry Smith, "I mean it's special."

"He's also a great story teller," said fellow guard Andre McGee, "He keeps you interested in anything he has to say."

It's clear Pitino's Cardinals have listened. In their first game of the Big East Tournament, Louisville's suffocating pressure defense kept Providence in a stand still offensively. Unlike several Big East teams so far, the Cards didn't showboat in a fairly comfortable win.

They respected an arena that they hope to leave with two more victories and a Big East Championship.