"Finally" is a strange word to use in Louisville's case. After all, it was just 2008-09 that Rick Pitino took a star-laden team to a Big East title, a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed and an Elite Eight finish. Louisville hasn't exactly been dormant.
But the hoops culture in Kentucky is such that it probably feels like ages since the Cardinals were on top. Since last summer, it's been bad news item after bad news item: Pitino was the victim in a federally prosecuted extortion case; the Cardinals faltered in a just-OK 2009-10 campaign; Pitino's involvement in the Karen Sypher mess reached previously unseen levels of humiliation; Kentucky coach John Calipari was nabbing recruits left and right, including former Louisville target Marquis Teague; and the 2010-11 the Cardinals didn't offer much hope for the immediate future.
That's all still true. But as of yesterday, there is more reason for optimism than Louisville fans have had since Earl Clark was prowling the perimeter.
I'm referring, of course, to the commitment of the No. 32 overall player in the class of 2011, Chane Behanan, the fourth four-star prospect in Pitino's 2011 recruiting haul. The class was already looking loaded; Pitino previously nabbed the No. 33-ranked Wayne Blackshear and No. 73-ranked Zach Price. There could be more good news on the way, too, as some recruiting experts believe the No. 4-ranked player in 2011, forward Quincy Miller, and No. 50-ranked Deuce Bello, are both on the verge to committing to Louisville, too.
If both commit, Pitino could make a very legitimate claim on the best recruiting class in 2011. Even if one or neither do, Pitino has already made a major case about the legitimacy of his tenure and coaching going forward. Behanan was the highest-ranked prospect in the state of Kentucky in 2011. He was also recruited by John Calipari at Kentucky. That Pitino landed him instead is just the salve Cardinals fans -- many of whom were rightly worried that Calipari was going to make succeeding at Louisville impossible -- need.
It's been a rough year for those fans. It's been an even rougher one for Rick Pitino. But the good news is that there's good news. Finally.