Monday, October 13, 2003
Updated: March 20, 3:38 PM ET
Comeback for the Ages
By Mike Puma
Special to ESPN.com
Feb. 15, 1994 -- Trailing LSU 68-37 with 15:34 remaining in Baton Rouge, Kentucky seem finished. Coach Rick Pitino implored his players to keep trying, telling them to concentrate on defending the three-point line.
"We just wanted to make it respectable and not lose our confidence," he said.
The Wildcats did more than make the game respectable. Incredibly, they defeated LSU, 99-95. Their comeback from 31 points down tied the NCAA record for the biggest second-half deficit overcome to win a game, first set by Duke against Tulane in 1950.
Besides defending the three-point shot, Kentucky started nailing its own long-range attempts. It made nine three-pointers in the final 10 minutes. Walter McCarty's three-pointer with 19 seconds left gave the Wildcats their first lead since the opening seconds.
"I've coached 200 NBA games and 16 years in college and I've never seen a comeback like that," Pitino said. "It was the most character I've ever seen in a basketball team and the most unbelievable thing I've seen."
Odds 'n' Ends
Pitino was a freshman at Massachusetts during Julius Erving's senior year.
Among Pitino's college teammates was Al Skinner, now the head coach at Boston College.
As a junior at UMass, Pitino averaged 4.3 points and 4.8 assists. He improved those numbers to 5.2 points and 6.5 assists as a senior.
While on his honeymoon in 1976, Pitino, a new Syracuse assistant, flew to Cincinnati to recruit Louis Orr.
At Boston University, Pitino was named New England Coach of the Year twice (1979 and 1983).
As a college coach, Pitino has preached the importance of three-point shooting. Succeeding on 40 percent from three-point range produces more points than shooting 59 percent on two-pointers.
Before becoming the Knicks head coach in 1987, Pitino was a candidate to fill the Phoenix Suns' job.
After his first season with New York, Pitino considered returning to Providence as a replacement to fired coach Gordie Chiesa.
Pitino's assistant coaches with the Knicks included Ralph Willard, Jim O'Brien and Stu Jackson, all of whom became head coaches.
For his first home game at Rupp Arena, Kentucky fans wore Rick Pitino masks distributed by the school.
Despite Kentucky still being on probation in 1991, Pitino led the Wildcats to a No. 9 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
His 1996 national championship team had eight future NBA players.
Pitino's last five Kentucky teams went 66-4 at home.
His Kentucky teams went 17-1 in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
After leading Kentucky to the national championship in 1996, Pitino was courted by the New Jersey Nets, who offered him part-ownership and control of player personnel.
Kentucky's worst seed in the NCAA Tournament under Pitino was a No. 3 in 1994. Four times the Wildcats were a top seed.
Before leaving Kentucky to join the Celtics, Pitino recommended the school hire his former assistant, Georgia coach Tubby Smith, as his successor. Smith got the job.
Pitino's ownership stake in the Celtics was reportedly three percent.
With Boston, Pitino had a list of rules that included 36 violations for which a player could be fined.
When he resigned from the Celtics, Pitino had $27 million remaining on his contract.
He worked as a color commentator for CBS during the 2001 NCAA Tournament.
As a college head coach, Pitino has never had a losing season.
Pitino has investments in thoroughbred racing.
He is the author of two motivational books.
Pitino and his wife Joanne have five children: Michael, Christopher, Richard, Ryan and Jacqueline.
In 2004, Pitino's contract with Louisville was extended through 2010.
In 2005, Pitino's bid for a second NCAA title ended when Louisville, which had won 22 of 23 games, lost in the Final Four to top-ranked Illinois, 72-57.