Pitino again lobbies for Memphis

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The most vocal proponent of the University of Memphis gaining entry into the Big East conference, ironically, is in charge of one of the Tigers' biggest rivals.

Louisville, Ky. — The most vocal proponent of the University of Memphis gaining entry into the Big East conference, ironically, is in charge of one of the Tigers' biggest rivals.

Rick Pitino, the coach at Louisville the last ten years, began petitioning for the Tigers joining the same conference as the Cardinals this summer when Big East basketball powers Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia announced they'd be leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013.

He did it once again just minutes after the No. 4 Cardinals held off the Tigers, 95-87, Saturday at the KFC! Yum Center.

"It was exciting to have Memphis back," Pitino said. "We've had some great games with them. I'm just hoping that the Big East gets smart and does something about that and allows them to come in the league."

Louisville, once conference mates with Memphis in Conference USA, was one part of the C-USA contingent that defected for the Big East in 2005.

Their last game as fellow C-USA members was arguably the most unforgettable of the 50-plus year series. Darius Washington missed two of three free throws at the end of regulation to let Louisville escape with a 2-point win in the C-USA tournament championship in Memphis, 75-74.

Memphis flirted with the Big East during its expansion efforts in the early 2000s but was ultimately left out in favor of the Cardinals, South Florida, DePaul and others.

To account for the losses of Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia, the Big East raided C-USA once again to pluck SMU, Houston, and UCF as all-sports members. It also added Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members, meaning Memphis once again was the odd man out of Big East expansion.

"We got hurt big time, and we need Memphis," Pitino said. "Memphis doesn't need us. We need Memphis. We need Temple. We need to build up basketball again."

Along with Memphis, Pitino has also pushed for the A-10's Temple as a potential Big East member.

"Memphis is the perfect fit for the Big East culture," he said. "Inner city school. Temple's the perfect fit. Inner city school. It would strengthen our basketball conference again. Not that we're weak, but we wanna be one of the best, so I'm hoping they do something about it.

"(Big East) commissioner John (Marinatto)'s been on vacation in Hawaii, so he hasn't done anything about it. He needs to get his (butt) back here."

Memphis coach Josh Pastner said post-game that although he's flattered by the respect Pitino has for Memphis and its program, his focus is on playing in C-USA.

"Whatever league we're in, we will be prepared to play in," Pastner said. "But right now, obviously, we're focused on Conference USA and we feel good about Conference USA."


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