Big Blue Notes: Pitino’s legacy battered by FBI investigation and poor choices

Eric Howard is a Calvert City native who lives in Lexington and is a committed UK Wildcat fan. His column 'Big Blue Notes' appears regularly in The Lake News.

Eric Howard is a Calvert City native who lives in Lexington and is a committed UK Wildcat fan. His column ‘Big Blue Notes’ appears regularly in The Lake News.

Cats win ugly, move to 4-1
It wasn’t pretty, but Mark Stoops and company held off Eastern Michigan by a score of 24-20 on Saturday to move to 4-1 on the season. Coming off of last week’s heartbreaking loss to Florida, Kentucky’s players and fans appeared to be emotionally drained squaring off against the Mid-American Conference opponent.

The Wildcats will host Missouri this Saturday at Kroger Field. The Tigers enter the game with a 1-3 record with Kentucky being the heavy favorite in the SEC East matchup. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. CST, and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Pitino’s Legacy in the Commonwealth
The college basketball world was turned upside down last week with the revelation of the FBI’s investigation into the underworld of college coaching, shoe companies, and the AAU circuit.

As details from the FBI’s report became public, the University of Louisville was found to be at the center of the scandal involving $100,000 being paid to land a top recruit. Within 48 hours of the story’s release, Rick Pitino’s Hall of Fame coaching career was over.

The former University of Kentucky and University of Louisville basketball coach leaves the commonwealth as one the biggest sports figures in the state’s history and will forever be associated with the two schools.

Pitino arrived at the University of Kentucky in 1989 and was tabbed as the savior of the Wildcats’ scandal ridden program. His talent on the sidelines was obvious from the start and culminated in the school’s sixth national championship in 1996.

After a failed stint with the Boston Celtics, Pitino returned to the commonwealth in 2001 to take over the Louisville basketball program where he remained for a sixteen years. His tenure included several Final Fours, a vacated national title, and three salacious scandals.

While Pitino’s ability as a coach will never be questioned, the negatives of his persona eventually bested his professional genius. Ironically, the man brought to Lexington to salvage a program in the throngs of NCAA probation finishes his career by sending the University of Louisville into the abyss.

While Pitino was once considered a hero to both fan bases, he ends his career unwelcome in Lexington or Louisville. After losing to Kentucky in Rupp Arena on December 26, 2015, Rick Pitino exited the court with his middle finger extended to the Wildcat fans in the stands. His last gesture in Rupp Arena is the perfect example of a man who singlehandedly undermined his own greatness.

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