When you’ve coached for as long as Rick Pitino, you’re going to collect some fairly serious blunders.
From in-game decisions to major career changes, Pitino went over his biggest regrets with Dan Dakich on ESPNU Radio on Sirius XM Saturday.
The legendary college basketball coach’s longest tenures took place with Kentucky (1989-97) and Louisville (2001-17). While many people may think the Kentucky job had the most potential, Pitino claims his departure from Providence as his biggest career-move regret.
In his second and final year with the Friars, Pitino led the team to a 25-9 record and a Final Four appearance.
“(Dick) Vitale is a close friend of mine and every single conversation he says, ‘Do you realize you’d have more wins than Coach K today if you stayed at Kentucky,” Pitino said. “Do I regret it? Yes I do in a way. It is a special place but I also regret leaving Providence College. I’ve said that many times. That was a two year Cinderella ride with Billy Donovan as my captain and I regret leaving there. You know, you look back. I’m sure as a basketball coach and athlete that there are so many things you regret.”
More specifically, Pitino’s biggest regret came in one of college basketball’s most iconic finishes.
— College Sports on SiriusXM (@SXMCollege) January 23, 2021
In the 1992 NCAA Tournament, Pitino and Kentucky led Duke with 2.1 seconds remaining in the East Regional Final. Off of a full-court-heave inbounds pass, Christian Laettner corralled the ball at the free-throw line and hit what became known as “The Shot” to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four.
Pitino admits a change in the way he defended this play could’ve altered his whole career.
“I regret not putting a guy on the ball with Christian Laettner, so many things in life would be different,” Pitino said. “You mentioned Coach Knight. Coach Knight called me after that and said ‘I don’t ever put a guy on the ball in a full court situation. I said ‘Bob, here’s my mistake at that game, it wasn’t putting a guy on the ball.’ I told (Deron) Feldhaus and (John) Pelphrey, I said ‘whatever you do, (don’t foul Laettner). If you see it, both guys freeze and instead of knocking the ball down….they froze and that was my mistake in that game so I regret that big time.”
After a brief hiatus from college basketball coaching following his departure from Louisville in 2017, Rick Pitino took a head coaching job at Iona in 2020. So far in his first season with the program, the Gaels have collected a 5-3 record.