A few weeks ago, assistant basketball coach Mike Balado was really unsure of his future — due to unlucky timing, he found himself without a stable job.
Last season, Balado was part of the Florida International coaching staff with Richard Pitino. Of course, Pitino took the Minnesota coaching job, and was looking to bring Balado along to his new school as well. Balado, after checking out Minnesota, decided he would remain at FIU, but returned and hadn’t heard from athletic director Pete Garcia in several days. Unsure if his position was still secure, he went back to Pitino to accept the Minnesota job, only to see that the opening had already been filled.
It looked like Balado was going to have to take a job at D-II Barry University for $18,000 for the year and work as a personal trainer at the local YMCA — a tough situation for any family — Balado is married and has 4-year-old twins.
However, another Pitino had an eye on Balado, up in Louisville. Rick had heard only great things about Mike from his son, and called Balado and told him to come to his house to chat. The short story? He ended up offering Balado a position on the Cardinals staff:
Then he pulled out a trio of $100 bills from his wallet and handed them to Balado, insisting he take his wife out for a nice dinner after the brutal few weeks the couple had recently endured.
Balado politely declined, having too much pride to take charity.
“You can afford it now,” Pitino said. “You’re an assistant coach at Louisville.”
Balado still couldn’t process what Pitino was saying. Here he was on the verge of having to struggle to make ends meet — and now he was being hired as a full-time assistant with the defending national champions, earning a salary in excess of $200,000.
Balado broke down in tears before calling his wife, a high school teacher.
“I don’t think he thought it was real,” Alicia Balado said.
“He was crying like a baby,” Richard Pitino recalled. “He went from Barry University to Louisville.”
Now Rick Pitino is one of the most polarizing figures in college basketball — many people both love and hate him. But this was a great gesture from the coach, and one that Balado is extremely grateful for. Kudos to Rick for the move.