Rick Pitino's Pregame Speech Delivered for Louisville Cardinals Fans

Jonathan LintnerSenior Analyst IDecember 17, 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

A one-game turnaround for Louisville Wednesday night further fueled the notion that coach Rick Pitino is in control of the situation. That he has no plans to make reservations for the National Invitational Tournament. That he hasn't lost his edge—or his team.

And in turn, it sent a message to Cardinals fans, both literally on the court and figuratively from the locker room.

The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles—all seven of the uninjured ones, at least—were on the receiving end of a March-like effort from Louisville in a December blowout of a Big East Conference opponent. It came at the best time for the Cardinals, who were staring three straight losses and a 5-4 record in the eyes before dispatching Oral Roberts 95-57.

With defeats to UNLV, Charlotte, and Western Carolina, Louisville fans grew to question everything about Pitino. Is his coaching style outdated? Has he lost his recruiting touch? Will personal problems morph into on-court detriments?

So Pitino did what many coaches wouldn’t think to do.

He aired the team’s pre-game speech to Freedom Hall’s 18,868 fans about 10 minutes before the opening tip, and both the Cardinals and the stands responded in positive fashion.

Louisville doubled up Oral Roberts’ score before 10 minutes of game time had passed. A man-to-man full-court press, in contrast to Pitino’s customary 2-2-1 look, was landing loose balls in Cardinals’ hands. Even Louisville’s fourth-year leaders, Edgar Sosa (18 points) and Jerry Smith (14 points) looked to be just that—leaders.

The performance came after Pitino called his team a bunch of “impostors” in uniforms with all of Freedom Hall watching.

That riled up the Cardinals' players.

But it was a reminder that comebacks do happen—such as the one Pitino has brewing—that left the Cardinals' fans excited.

Pitino drew up a diagram of the MLB standings from early in the 2009 season, citing the position of the New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, and Los Angeles Dodgers. All three were trailing their divisions‘ respective leaders—some more than others—but all came back and made post-season play.

If Pitino has his way, this season’s Louisville team will follow that model. After all, it’s worked in the past.

Last season, the Cardinals also lost three non-conference games—to Western Kentucky, Minnesota, and UNLV. When it came time to play in a loaded Big East, Pitino upped the pressure defense, and things clicked. The 2007-2008 season wasn’t too different from that model, either.

Yet somehow, Louisville’s early losses always scare Cardinals fans into thinking second fiddle before lead guitar, or NIT before NCAA.

That looked to be the case heading into Wednesday’s game.

As the Cardinals proved, Pitino has access to Louisville’s on/off switch, with reserve power muddled somewhere behind the months of November and December. Although Pitino used the first spark to power up the Cardinals against Oral Roberts, the tank should be far from empty.

But to save the reserves, Louisville might have to ride off the fans at Freedom Hall for awhile.

Pitino made sure that’s possible with the highest-attended pre-game speech he’s given in quite some time.

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