Monday, June 30, 2014
Top 50 coaches: No. 5 Rick Pitino
By Eamonn Brennan
Editor's note: Over five weeks, we will reveal the top 50 coaches in college basketball as decided by our ESPN Forecast panel. Today we unveil No. 5: Louisville's Rick Pitino. On Tuesday, we release No. 4.
I am a firm believer in the aesthetics of basketball. Playing beautifully is a great priority in soccer -- fans laud creative losers and bemoan boring winners -- in a way that almost no American sport can really account for. Competition is carved into the national DNA. We'd always rather we just win. But basketball comes the closest. We want to see basketball teams win, sure, but we'd vastly prefer they did so in a method that thrills. Or at least I do.
There are many different ways to satisfy this criteria. Up-tempo pace. Athleticism. Great guard play. Smart passing, intuitive movement, an interesting offensive system. Defending well without fouling. Coaches recruit players and insert them into a system that fits, and so are responsible for both philosophy and execution. But in the end, it's the players who express the style on the floor. Players make a game fun to watch.
With one exception: Louisville coach Rick Pitino. Rick Pitino is really fun to watch.
That was the first thing that came to mind when it came time to add Pitino's entry to the ESPN Forecast Top 50 list, though that's not why he's here. The voting -- which asked almost 50 people from across ESPN to score coaches based on current, not lifetime, performance -- could be interpreted differently by each voter, of course. Disclaimer, right? But it's safe to say the wisdom of the crowd didn't consider Pitino's merits as a showman when it posted him at No. 5 in the country.