Pitino among 12 to be inducted to Naismith Memorial Basketball HOF
ATLANTA -- It has been quite the week for Rick Pitino.
And on Monday morning, just hours away from the tip-off of the national championship game between his Louisville Cardinals and Michigan, it got even better.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Pitino was among its 12 members of the Class of 2013, and will be honored Sept. 6–8 during its enshrinement ceremonies at Springfield, Mass.
On April 3 -- his 37th wedding anniversary -- Pitino received the call from the Hall of Fame. He was having trouble hearing because his iPhone was constantly beeping. As he attempted to put the phone on speaker so that his wife Joanne could also hear the phone conversation, he received a text message.
“It read, ‘go gophers, I got the job,’ ” Pitino said. His son Richard had become the Minnesota basketball coach.
As Pitino ended his call, he remembered, “I was waiting for lighting to hit me,” he said. “It was such an unbelievable moment.”
Joining Pitino in the Class of 2013 are E.B. Henderson, Roger Brown, Oscar Schmidt, Richie Guerin, Sylvia Hatchell, Bernard King, Guy V. Lewis, Gary Payton, Dawn Staley and Jerry Tarkanian.
Pitino’s good fortune extended to the west coast on Saturday, when Goldencents, a horse that is co-owned by Pitino, won the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby.
A Louisville victory Monday night in the national championship game against Michigan would place Pitino in a tie with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden’s 664 career victories. Pitino is the only collegiate coach in men’s history to take three different schools -- Providence, Kentucky and Louisville -- to the Final Four. His teams have reached the Final Four seven times. Kentucky won the 1996 championship and lost in overtime to Arizona one year later.
Since the Hall of Fame began to announce its honorees at the Final Four, Pitino is the first coach to be honored on the day he would lead a team into the national championship game.
Pitino was so elated by the news that it had not sunk in. You couldn’t blame him for having his mind elsewhere with limited time to prepare for a title game showdown with the Wolverines.
“I was so caught off-guard, I didn’t know you had to have someone to present you,” Pitino said, laughing. “I will figure it out for sure before [September].”
“It’s players like these guys next to me [fellow Hall inductees Bernard King and Gary Payton] that get you to this point as a coach,” he said. “There are so many people that have had a part in this, I’m so proud to be here.”