"It's just been a whirlwind of a week trying to get prepared (to play basketball)," Patton said. "That's consumed most of my thoughts."
Joe Harrington hired Patton as an assistant prior to the 1993-94 season. With nine games remaining in the 1995-96 season, Harrington was fired and Patton was hired as interim head coach. After the season, CU took the "interim" tag away from Patton's job title.
Patton, whose contract officially expires the end of June, announced he would not seek an extension back in October. Nearing the end of his 11th full season as head coach at CU, Patton has more tenure at his school than any other Big 12 coach this season. Patton's team have accounted for 183 total wins (second all-time on the CU list) and 79 conference victories going into Saturday's game. Worrying about what all that means, however, will be saved for another day.
"I'll be worried about the game," Patton said when asked what'll be on his mind Saturday morning.
There's a reception scheduled to honor Patton after the game, and many of Patton's former players are expected to attend. He said he'll be excited to see them.
"For me, it's been all about the players, the relationships we've developed over the years," Patton said when asked what he was most proud of in his tenure at CU.
Patton guided two CU teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first Buffs to play in the tourney since 1969. Four of Patton's teams also played in the postseason NIT. He's coached two players who've gone to play in the NBA — Chauncey Billups and David Harrison — and a handful of others who've earned money in pro leagues overseas. Patton said he was proud that "we've done more than what most people thought was possible. We've had some bright moments here. The first year (in 1996-97), finishing second in the Big 12 is a fond memory – that group of guys that came in and helped change things. Winning that first game in the tournament (vs. Indiana in 1997)."
Patton continued: "I don't know what emotions I'll experience (after the game). I've got great memories about being here. I'm certainly appreciative of the opportunity to have been the coach here. I think I've been totally blessed. That's what I'll leave here with. Some fond memories of the people I've met, my two sons growing up here."
Patton will also remember his time in Colorado for lighting one of his passions: golf. The coach, originally from Tennessee, was accomplished in martial arts, but had never played golf before getting a job at CU. These days, Patton has an above-average game on the links. Turns out it was former CU assistant coach David Moe's mocking laughter that turned Patton on to the golf course. The two were assistants under Harrington.
"David made the comment: I've got a better chance at beating Ricardo up in karate than he has at ever beating me at golf," Patton reminisced on Thursday. It took Patton a little over a year on the golf courses to beat Moe, and these days, "it's not even close. …there's a big gap (in my favor)" he said.
Going into Saturday's game with Nebraska, the Buffs are 6-19 overall, 2-13 in conference. The Buffs will play in the Big 12 Tournament, beginning Thursday in Oklahoma City, as the 12th seed.
When he's finally done with his job in Boulder, Patton said he'll still be a fan of the Buffs.
"I'll look back and follow the progress of the program and hope it does well," Patton said.
Saturday is Senior Day, which takes place annually on the final home game of the season. Senior Dominique Coleman, along with senior student manager, Mark Ost, will be escorted to center court and introduced prior to tip off. Patton will also be presented with a plaque prior to the game. Following the game, Patton will say a few words about Coleman and Ost, then there will be recognition of Patton, too. Patton will also be treated to a reception following the game. Several former players are expected to attend the game and reception. …Patton has always expressed concern about players who finish their eligibility, but don't finish their degree. He spent 45 minutes with Coleman earlier this week to urge Coleman, who will still have classes to take after this semester in order to earn his diploma, to return and finish his schooling.