While the arena issue has been portrayed – rightly so - as a struggle between city of Louisville leaders, who want the new arena constructed downtown, and U of L and state government, Pitino said he's only concerned about two things on the issue - availability of the new facility for his team, and the traffic situation for fans.
"I have two concerns – the dates, and traffic," said Pitino. "We don't want our fans sitting in traffic for an hour and half after the game. What I'm looking for are the dates. I don't care where it's built – downtown or at the Fairgrounds. Wherever it's built, we need to be able to play there in November and February, especially moving to the Big East."
At Freedom Hall in year's past, Pitino's teams have often been at the mercy of conventions, tractor pulls, and other attractions when trying to schedule home games, particularly in November and February. Heading into one the nation's toughest basketball leagues next season, Pitino knows his program will need the flexibility to schedule opponents at home so they're forced to long stretches on the road. Under the plan to build a new arena at the KFEC unveiled Monday, the Cardinals would have priority in scheduling matters – an attractive incentive from U of L's perspective.
Pitino said he doesn't care where a
new arena is built, as long as his
team has scheduling priority and
there's not a traffic problem for fans.
"It needs relief," Pitino said of the 50 year-old Freedom Hall. "It's old and antiquated."
While U of L Athletic Director Tom Jurich has taken some not so veiled shots through the media directed at city leaders, particularly for the city's lack of communication with university officials about the arena issue, Pitino said he had confidence in the city's top man, Mayor Jerry Abramson.
"He's a great guy," Pitino said of Abramson. "He called me two months ago and assured me the (city) would do something about it (new arena). He knows the city, and I have confidence in him."
And though Pitino made clear he doesn't care where a new arena is ultimately built, he did sound enamored with the plans unveiled by U of L and the KFEC.
"It's a tremendous facility," Pitino said of the proposed 21,000-seat arena unveiled earlier this week.
With tensions seemingly high between city leaders and U of L about the location of a new arena, the always-astute Pitino was at his political best during his radio appearance with Meiners.
"We all have to get on the same page," said Pitino. "We're in this together. This is not the city versus U of L. We want to do what is best for the city, state, and fans."
In other news, Pitino said he's narrowed his search for former assistant Reggie Theus' replacement to a few candidates.
"I'm down to three people," he said. "One from the south, one from the west, and one from the east. I'm going to take my time."
While the candidates from the east and west are likely known – Manhattan assistant Steve Masiello, and UNLV assistant Marvin Menzies – the southern candidate comes as a bit of a surprise, especially considering current assistant Vince Taylor is still on staff and has been responsible for recruiting the southern half of the United States for Pitino the last several years.
"Vince is still with us right now," Pitino said. "(But) he'll be moving on in the next year or so to be a head coach."