Thanks, Rick

The Temple University men's basketball team will welcome a friend tonight at the Liacouras Center. His name is Rick Pitino. While the legendary coach of defending national champion Louisville isn't always showered with well wishes when he arrives at opposing arenas, Pitino should be well-received when he is announced before the game against the Owls.

The Temple University men's basketball team will welcome a friend tonight at the Liacouras Center. His name is Rick Pitino.

While the legendary coach of defending national champion Louisville isn't always showered with well wishes when he arrives at opposing arenas, Pitino should be well-received when he is announced before the game against the Owls.

In fact, a standing ovation might be in order from whatever fans are able to fight through the elements to reach the arena before tip-off.

Why should Pitino be considered a friend and not foe tonight? Because when Temple's chances of moving up to a major conference looked slim two years ago, it was Pitino who rushed to the Owls' aid.

Pitino publicly backed Temple's inclusion as a Big East school at a time when the Owls looked like they had been passed over and might have a long wait until being considered again.

"We have to take a page out of the ACC in what they did to us," said Pitino in October, 2011. "Taking Syracuse and Pittsburgh was a stroke of genius. We have to do the same thing and we have that available to us with two programs that also have football.

"I understand what we're doing for football, but the Big East core is inner-city basketball, and Memphis and Temple fit that core. They are everything we need. We have to get back to our core.

"Memphis has 18,000 season tickets in basketball and a gigantic following. It's a major city. Temple is in a major city and is a top 30 program with Fran Dunphy. We need them. Having Temple in the Big East would be great for all the other sports. And here Memphis is a great rival for us. Our fans would be excited to play Memphis.

"Everybody thinks SMU can be back in football and Houston is fashionable now, but we can take them and Memphis and Temple. We have to get to 18 teams and get Boise State and Navy and Air Force in football if they want to commit.

"I'm giving my opinion and the Big East has told me that all my points are valid. We just lost two really important basketball programs in Syracuse and Pitt and maybe a third in West Virginia. We have to make the Big East strong again. Memphis and Temple is what we need right now."

Five months later, the Owls received their long-awaited invitation to join the Big East. Whether Pitino's words and influence helped is debatable, but it certainly couldn't hurt for one of the best college coaches of all-time to speak glowingly of your program.

Of course, after lobbying so hard for Temple and Memphis, Pitino and Louisville will be off to the Big 12 next year. The Owls and Tigers will remain in the American Athletic Conference – which the Big East football schools became this year – in a league that is a step up from their previous digs in the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA, respectively.

That means Pitino might not be making any more appearances in the Liacouras Center after tonight, so it will be incumbent on Temple fans to let him know how much they appreciate his efforts on their behalf.

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