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Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Pitino belongs with all-time greats

By Dick Vitale

Rick Pitino made hoop history on Monday night at the Georgia Dome. He became the first coach to win national championships at two different schools.

Think about how amazing that feat is. In the 75-year history of the NCAA tournament, nobody led two separate programs to titles until Pitino did it Monday. First it was at Kentucky in 1996, then with the Cardinals of Louisville.

That is one reason why I have Pitino in my super six coaches during my era.

My list, in no particular order: Robert Montgomery Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, Dean Smith, Pitino and the Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden. Yes, these guys are winners on the court. They are master motivators; they get so much out of their talent.

What I love about Pitino is his ability to make changes and adjustments during games. He changes defenses often on the same play. It is a lot more than just his pressure defense. Look at the way his team responded to challenges at the Final Four. Louisville was down 12 to Wichita State and 12 to Michigan. Pitino never lost his composure and showed his leadership. The Cardinals bounced back and cut down the nets in an emotional scene.

Pitino is a Picasso on the court, like an artist at work. Basketball is his canvas and the sport is a work of art.

He has been a winner everywhere he has gone at the college level. He has taken three different schools to the Final Four, an amazing accomplishment.

I remember years ago, when my buddy Richie Adubato called me and told me about a new assistant coach with the Knicks. He said this young man was very intelligent and was going to be something special.

Richie was right.

I followed Pitino through the Five-Star camps, where Super Garf, Howard Garfinkel, also raved about him. Pitino is back in the spotlight, making the Hall of Fame, a long overdue honor.

Then there is the national title. Give a lot of credit to the champion.