Jan. 27, 2004
I was preparing to speak at a fund-raiser in New Jersey for the United Jewish Communities of Metro West when my cell phone rang Monday night. I received the stunning news regarding Rick Pitino's decision to take a medical leave of absence from the Louisville sidelines.
I've learned that Pitino could return as early as Saturday's game vs. Marquette (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET).
Upon receiving the news of his health status, I was blown away and shocked. Pitino is one guy who takes care of himself. He's totally into physical fitness.
This shows that the stress, intensity and emotion of coaching can take its toll, even when you work hard to take care of yourself. It can really wear on your body. Coaches today have so many responsibilities, so much to handle.
I hope and pray that it's nothing major and that Pitino will be back quickly to guide and direct the Cardinals. This is certainly a blow for Louisville. The Cardinals are putting on quite a show, having won 15 straight games after losing their opener to Iowa. They've risen to No. 4 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.
Louisville is as impressive as any team in America. Think about the superb performances against Florida, Kentucky and Cincinnati. This is one of the elite teams in college basketball. Many experts, including yours truly, believed that Louisville was at least a year away from becoming a legitimate top-15 team. But Pitino has already placed his stamp and magical touch on the program.
Let's all hope and pray that we can get Pitino back on the sidelines soon, doing what he does best -- motivating, inspiring and teaching. The man is absolutely a Hall of Famer in every sense of the term. If he hadn't taken that three-and-a-half year journey to the NBA to coach the Boston Celtics, there's no doubt in my mind that his career numbers would be right up there with Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
We wish Pitino nothing but the best. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family during this tough, tough time.
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