With that much experience - and a title - under his belt, Pitino had some profound, yet simple words of wisdom for his 33-4 Cardinals' before they began preparing seriously for their Saturday match-up against top-ranked Illinois.
"Have fun, enjoy it," Pitino told his team. "It's a once in a lifetime experience."
While it might not seem like much fun to face an Illini team that has lost just once (a one-point loss to Ohio State) this season, Pitino's theory in preparing his team for its Final Four match-up is to be loose, relaxed, and focused on the task at hand.
"It's been a great ride, and we really haven't been able to catch out breath," Pitino said. "We're really looking forward to getting to Saint Louis."
Louisville hopes to have more fun in
Saint Louis. (AP Photo)
But Monday, Pitino said his troops are beginning to heal for this weekends all important action. That is, all except George.
"I think we're in good shape," said Pitino. "We were able to rest on Sunday. Otis again will not practice all week – maybe we can get him one day of practice. But outside of Otis, we're in pretty good shape."
Though Dean and Garcia were named to the All-Regional team for their performances in Albuquerque, it was senior guard Larry "Legend" O'Bannon's 24 second half points against the Mountaineers that propelled Louisville to its first Final Four since winning the title in 1986. O'Bannon, who was named the Most Outstanding Player in the regional, has been a key reason why the Cardinals have won 22 or their last 23 games.
"Larry O'Bannon has been one of the best stocks in the country," said Pitino. "His stock just keeps rising and he keeps getting better. He went from an average player last year to a great one this season."
O'Bannon's rise, according to Pitino, mirrors that of his team.
"I just characterize our team as a blue-chip stock that just keeps getting better and better," Pitino said.
Facing their toughest challenge of the season against Illinois, Pitino thinks his team has what it takes to rise to the occasion.
"This team has a never give up attitude, and we've seen it so many times from this team," Pitino said. "They've had so much adversity to overcome. Whether it's been physical injuries or foul trouble, somebody has always stepped up for us. I just think they're very resilient, very tough-minded. They're tough kids. I just sit back and marvel at what they accomplish."
And that's why this season's Final Four journey is so special for Pitino and the Cardinals.
"I just think it's like an actor performing on Broadway," Pitino said. "In basketball, this is what we all dream about."