- Dick Vitale, College Basketball analyst
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Rick Pitino had an incredible stretch back in April. His horse, Goldencents, won the Santa Anita Derby and ran in the Kentucky Derby. His son, Richard, was named head coach at Minnesota. He won his second national championship at Louisville and earned his place among elite coaches by being elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Talk about a grand slam! Pitino hit one, big time!
It will be a magical moment when he is enshrined in Springfield, Mass. on Sept. 8. Trust me, it is a rush of adrenaline, a feeling you cannot describe. I had the honor back in 2008, and I am sure that Pitino will be very emotional.
My question now is, with Pitino representing the latest member of the college coaching fraternity to make it to Springfield, who is on the horizon?
In my opinion, there are three main candidates. Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Bill Self should all be locks to make it.
Izzo won the national championship in 2000 and has been absolutely magical come tournament time. He has made it to six Final Fours and made 16 consecutive appearances in the big dance; only Kansas and Duke have longer current streaks. He's over .700 in tourney winning percentage with a record of 39-15.
Donovan won back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007. He recently led the USA to the championship of the under-19 basketball tournament. Donovan also earned his 400th win at Florida during the 2012-13 campaign and has put together 15 straight 20-win seasons.
Self also has a national championship under his belt. He's averaged 30 wins per season at Kansas and bumped his winning percentage over .500 for his career during the 2012-13 season. Under his guidance, the Jayhawks have won nine straight conference championships.
These three men are not only great on the sidelines, but they are great human beings. Personally, I am so proud of them as individuals as they've contributed so much in the fight against cancer by supporting the V Foundation.
My friends, they are far from done. It is incredible what they have accomplished already, and they have a lot more W's ahead.
They have quality players returning in the coming season and will continue to produce outstanding squads, as they are part of elite programs that have garnered so much respect. They are first class in every way.
Look for them to put up numbers that will earn them the same moment that Pitino has.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino had an incredible year and is a shoe-in for the Basketball Hall of Fame, but who's next?