Rick Pitino - Liberated from Freedom Hall in 2010?

Mike HendersonCorrespondent IIDecember 15, 2009

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 12:  Rick Pitino the Head Coach of the Louisville Cardinals gives instructions to his team during the game against the Western Carolina Catamounts on December 12, 2009 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After losses to UNLV (acceptable, to some degree), Charlotte (uh, no) and Western Carolina (seriously?), the Cards are truly in for a long season. Yes, they bounced back big time last year after a slow start (including a loss to, you guessed it UNLV) but lightning won’t strike twice.

The Cards are desperately lacking depth in the backcourt, are shooting 3's poorly, are defending 3's even worse and are playing eleven players 10+ minutes per game as Pitino tries to find his rotation.

Last year, Louisville was the top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament. But the "graduation" of Terence Williams and the departure of Earl Clark has left the team without true leaders. The Cards will get better but will they get better enough to compete in the upper echelon of the Big East.

Rick Pitino’s reputation, not as a coach but as a person, has taken a huge hit over the past year and it may not be long before Pitino picks up his shingle and looks to hang it elsewhere. Currently in his ninth season, this job surpasses in tenure the eight years he spent a Kentucky. He has done a tremendous job with the Cards (one Final Four and consecutive Elite Eight appearances) and that can’t be taken away from him. But the Louisville fans and alumni that expect Elite Eights and Final Fours aren’t going to sleep well if the their team isn’t winning on the elite level. The allure of the NBA is surely gone, but maybe not the one of another big Six program.

Much will depend on the Big East schedule, which is as tough as anyone’s with road games at West Virginia, Syracuse and UConn. If the Cardinals can bounce back from this tough start, it might be one of Pitino’s best coaching jobs. And, it might be a perfect time to go.