Pitino gives state of the U of L program

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino gave a quick update on some details with his current team on Tuesday during the press conference to announce the news that pieces of the Final Four court will be available to U of L fans. Cardinal Authority was in attendance and has a quick recap.

Not long after announcing that pieces of the Final Four court from the Georgia Dome were going to be available as souvenirs for the fans, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was asked a basketball-specific question.

And that turned into a 10-minute press conference about the defending national champions, who are practicing this afternoon.

Pitino talked about Russ Smith's moped accident, Kevin Ware's health, the schedule, the new conference and much, much more.

Here are a few highlights:

*Montrezl Harrell won a gold medal with the U.S. U-19 World Championship team, while Luke Hancock is playing with the U.S.'s World University Games team: "We're proud of Montrezl and we were able to watch Luke yesterday on tape delay and he texted me and said the competition now gets really stiff and they are looking forward to that and we are very excited about the guys practicing right now. They are all doing great, including those guys on foreign trips."

*Question was how is Russ Smith's shoulder after his recent accident: "Did he hurt his shoulder? I didn't know that. You mean when he fell off a moped? Is that what you are talking about? He's fine. You probably know more about these injuries than me. Russ is fine. Basically, he's a faker anyway."

*Question about Kevin Ware: "Kevin is doing OK. He's not doing much right now, just riding a bike. You can almost see from the X-Rays the bone healing. I would venture to say in the next month he will be healed and then he will start working out again. Probably sometime in October he will start playing again."

*Question about draft night with Siva and Dieng: "I sort of knew where Gorgui was going to get drafted. He was probably one spot earlier than I thought he would and Peyton we started sweating it out a little. Peyton has a chance to make it in Detroit. He is playing really good basketball."

*What has summer been like to watch all guys play: "I enjoy watching the game and don't like blowouts as much. Montrezl had a really good couple of weeks. I spoke with Billy Donovan and he played well. He'll practice today."

A question on advice for new Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens: "That's right now none of my business."

Pitino said the biggest challenge to the new year? "Trying to remember what league we are in." The Cardinals are playing in the American Athletic Conference. He was joking and said, "Once we get that we will be OK. But the league will be very competitive. Will play Cincinnati twice, Memphis twice, Connecticut twice, Temple and they are all going to be ranked and then the unknown of the others."

Pitino said some of the teams on schedule not announced, mentioned Kentucky and North Carolina.

Pitino said the backcourt is going to be strong, mentioning Russ Smith, Chris Jones, Anton Gill and Terry Rozier: "This is a very, very strong back court. Chris Jones is everything that we have heard. He had been very, very good in practice. Rozier and Gill have been outstanding. Van Treese looks great, Mangok looks great. But the backcourt is very strong."

On replacing Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng: "I don't know if we can replace their attitudes, but this team is talented."

Pitino on the celebration and how the fans have enjoyed it: "I want them to celebrate. We celebrate with our fans and our city because like I said before, a lot of people were not born and didn't see (first two titles by U of L). People have heard about (Darrell Griffith) but a lot of them were not born. We wanted to celebrate this with the fans and we have no matter were we go."

The brand and how it's changed: "The brand changed three or four years ago when we went Louisville first and we really meant that. I gave the guys the speech about the book I am writing, ‘One Day Contract' and I told them I wanted them to play like they had a one-day contract. . . . They did play that way. We made a contract that they would play like they knew the contract would be renewed how they practiced that day or played the next game. I think that played a large role in the way our guys carried themselves this year, even with the losses. But the comebacks were remarkable. They were quite resilient."

Does he have the Hall of Fame speed ready? "I honestly have not given any thought to it what-so-ever. I am too busy celebrating. Nobody celebrates better than my children, my wife and myself. . . . When travel around and so many people speak about it and say what a great game it was. That's been a lot of fun. . . . We're doing a lot of exciting things together as a family We have had a blast and we will continue to celebrate as we are working on recruiting, that starts tomorrow."

When are you going to Washington D.C.? "We are not allowed to say. We know when we are going but we can't say until a week out."

What do you need in recruiting? "We need two big guys. We have a lot of talented ball players but we want to stay so we don't have to rebuild. If you look at things today, you have to play musical chairs the right way, so you don't have to rebuild. Our system is not good for rebuilding. It's complex. We are very strong in the backcourt. You can overcome weaknesses in the front court but you can't overcome weaknesses in the backcourt to maintain the level that you want to maintain."

Russ Smith as a leader: "Russ as a leader is a scary thought be he is doing a great job. He makes sure they have fun. Watching Russ and Chris Jones going after each other is something to behold. They go after it. I put them on opposite teams just to make Russ better and make Chris better and then you look at Rozier and Gill and even Tim Henderson, they get after it really, really hard."

Will you go to the ESPY's: "I am not going to the ESPY's. I am up for an award, Kenny (Klein) tells me. Probably won't win it. But if we do win it, Russ is going to accept it and he is going to get up there and I can tell you what he is going to say, "I accept this award for coach Pitino because if it wasn't for me he wouldn't get it."


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