Dear Coach Pitino,
It seems only a short time ago then U.K. Athletic Director C.M. Newton convinced a guy from New York to pack up his family, leave the big city lights and head to the Bluegrass. This was nothing short of a miracle.
I will always feel we needed you a lot more than you needed us. You made a team out of a bunch of Kentucky boys who during off season preferred to hunt and fish instead of working on skills. You made us hang on every word you spoke. You gave us hope.
You made the Kentucky boys believe in themselves. They grew not only as a team but individuals. With the addition of another NewYorker, Jamal Mashburn you gave us one of the most unforgettable teams to ever wear the Kentucky blue.
I still want to know …. why did you not guard the inbound pass? That is a question for another day or until the tournament rolls around and I have to watch it over and over.
I will always remember the confetti falling on you and Joann as you celebrated the 1996 National Championship at the Meadowlands. I sometimes watch the replay and it still feels good. You made Kentucky relevant again and vowed to make us forget the cover of Sports Illustrated. I will always be thankful to you for that.
I was hurt when you left for Boston. I understood that some opportunities come along once and this was your dream job. You had to go but you also made sure you left us in good hands by handpicking your replacement.
Kentucky basketball continued to be successful. Your career however was not. It became evident you were not meant to be an NBA coach, the college game was where you thrived.
I cursed at the television screen as the Papa John plane landed at Stanford field in Louisville. I found it hard to believe that you would do this to Kentucky fans. I recall waking up the next morning hoping it was a nightmare. I felt betrayed. Had you chosen to coach at any other school it would not have been a problem. I drew the line that day, I would never support you again. I had never cheered for U of L and this made my dislike only deeper.
I had no doubt you would be successful at Louisville and you were. I had to sit back and watch as you built a tradition all the while the CATS were taking huge strides in the opposite direction.
As your years at Louisville progressed you appeared to somewhat lose your “fire.” You did not “push buttons” like you once had and almost seemed to become complacent. Then…another Italian took over the reigns of a sinking Kentucky program.
Calipari caused your passion to return. You would not be referred to as the ‘little brother” again. The game was on. The rest is history that ended today.
I don’t like to dwell on what has happened to the U of L program over the past few years. They are not my team. I have watched you age dramatically with every scandal and today I watched as your face told the story. It is over.
My heart goes out to the guys from Kentucky that call you “coach.” I have had endless conversation about you with Cameron. He loves and respects you. I hurt for those guys today as I know they are hurting for you. This is not the way your coaching career should be ending.
I apologize to those who describe this as “the best day of their life,” for their lives must be shallow. If you thrive off the pain of others you probably need to reevaluate your priorities. Always remember: when the mighty fall, they fall hard as this will also apply to them one day.
I hope one day when I sit in Rupp and look at the retired jerseys I will be able to recall the good days with you Coach P. I fear for the immediate future my memory will be of you supposedly flipping the “bird” to the fans who once adored you. It is said that time heals all wounds, we will see.
I hope you walk away and don’t fight this. It is time for a new beginning at U of L and this time it doesn’t include a Pitino.
I wish you the best. I am sure we will see you on the big screen.