Hall of Fame basketball coach Rick Pitino is a controversial name in Lexington considering his time spent at rival Louisville. Before the “betrayal,” as many fans would put it, Pitino was however loved for the way he turned around Kentucky basketball from a dumpster fire to continued excellence.
Between 1989-1997, the Hall of Famer had a 219-50 record as the UK coach including one national championship in 1996. His teams had grit and toughness in ways that made Kentucky fans fall in love with them each year.
When looking back at his excellent time as the UK head basketball coach, Pitino remarked on Cameron Mills Radio that his greatest memory was the shared loved that he and fans had for the game.
“Well, I’m a very passionate person, and to see the fans and everyone surrounding the program match my passion was something startling to me. I didn’t think anybody could love the game as much as me. So to come to Kentucky, like in New York they like the game a lot, some people were over the top, but nobody I could say came even close to loving the game as much as me because there was so many distractions….but when you go to the University of Kentucky, it’s one thing and there’s so much passion that it was remarkable. And that’s probably what stirred the drink for me so much,” he said.
He later referred to the Kentucky as the greatest program in all of college sports, signaling a passion for U-K despite coaching on the other side of the state rivalry.
Now with the Hall of Famer at Iona University, is there any chance he is brought back to Rupp Arena for recognition? Or is the relationship still too hindered at this point? Time will tell.