Pitino on NCAA title: "It's not about me"

ATLANTA – It's been a wild week for University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. His son, Richard, was named the head coach at Minnesota, his U of L team won in the Final Four, his horse won the Santa Anita Derby and he was selected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. On Monday, Pitino will try to cap it with a national title for the Cardinals.

It's been 17 years since Rick Pitino guided the University of Kentucky to the national title in Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.

Pitino has been through a lot – on and off the hardwood – since the last strand of the nets were snipped on that memorable evening.

On Monday night, Pitino has a shot to do it again.

The 60-year-old Pitino, who was just selected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame earlier today, has another team – this time Louisville – back into the national championship game. The Cardinals play Michigan for the title.

Pitino can become the first men's coach to win a title with two different schools if the Cardinals can win the school's third national title.

"It's a special time for him," said Scott Padgett, who played for Pitino at UK and is now an assistant coach at Samford. "Look at how many lives he's touched over the years. There are a lot of people pulling for him."

But Pitino insists "it's not about me."

Pitino is in his 12th season at U of L after spending time in the NBA with the Boston Celtics following his departure from Kentucky in 1997.

He took the Cardinals to the Final Four in 2005 and last year and also had U of L as the No. 1 overall seed in 2009.

"We have built a brand on Louisville first," Pitino said. "Everything we do is about the team, about the family. I'd be a total hypocrite if I said it's really important. It really is not important.

"I want to win because I'm a part of this team. That's it. Those of us in team sports always think that way. All of these guys have just bought in."

Pitino could cap a ridiculous week for himself with a title. He was selected to go into the Hall of Fame, his son, Richard, was named coach at Minnesota on Friday and his horse, Goldencents, won the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday and is one of the top favorites for next months Kentucky Derby.

"He deserves it all," U of L athletic director Tom Jurich said.

Pitino has repeatedly during this run to the title game used the word "humility" to talk about himself and also this team of Cardinals.

On Sunday, Pitino was relaxed and again talked it up.

"It took a long time to gain humility," he said. "If I had one regret in life, it wouldn't be what you think. It's that I wasn't more humble at an earlier age. And I preach to any young coach that comes along. I tell my son all the time, 'Don't make the same mistakes when I was your age'."

Pitino said he's "come a long way" as a coach and as a person during his long career. And on Monday night, he can take another major step.

"I try not to get too low," Pitino said. "I fight adversity as hard as I can fight it. When good things happen, I don't really embrace it. I just say it's a lucky day."

He's been on a run with a lot of lucky days. But is there one more?

"If it's to be, it's to be," he said. "If it's not, it's not to be."


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