Rick Pitino: College Basketball Icon

Chris KellyCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2008

Note:  That is not a picture from Fantasy Island.  That is Rick Pitino wearing the white suit.

New York, New York.  That is what comes to mind when talking about Rick Pitino, the Italian from New York who knows basketball.  Pitino was once a basketball player himself, before he ever coached the sport. 

Pitino played college ball for UMass and was a star point guard for the Minutemen.  Pitino lays claim to the sixth-best single season assist total.  Pitino moved on to coaching at Hawaii for a short time, before becoming an assistant at Syracuse under new head coach Jim Boeheim.

His first big time coaching job was at Boston University from 1978-1983. He would turn the Boston program around, by returning it to the NCAA tournament.  After Boston, Pitino would venture into NBA waters as an assistant coach.

Pitino returned to his true calling as a college coach at Providence University where he would take the Friars to the final four.  One of his players happened to be future two-time national champion Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan.

It wasn't until after Providence that Pitino hit the big time at the University of Kentucky.  At UK, Pitino would get the Wildcats to the Final Four, and eventually win a national championship at one of college basketball's premier schools.  Also, he would be on the losing end of one of basketball's most remarkable plays (Christian Laettner's winning shot).

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After a failed tenure as the Boston Celtics head coach, Pitino returned to coaching as UK's in-state rival, the University of Louisville's head coach.  At Louisville to this day, Pitino has really brought success to the once proud program, by being the only coach to get three different NCAA teams to the Final Four.

Off the court, Pitino is a man with lots of pride,but of course there have been a few tragedies that some people never fully recover from emotionally.  His six-month old son died from heart failure.  In his honor, Pitino has set up the "Daniel Pitino Foundation." He also lost one of his best friends during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Looking back on the unfinished career of Rick Pitino, it is easy to say that he is by far one of the greatest coaches of all-time.  And he belongs in conversation with the great coaches that came before him.

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