Wow, I am so excited, thrilled and honored beyond belief to be asked to help present Rick Pitino at his Basketball Hall of Fame induction in Springfield, Mass., this weekend. When Rick called and told me, I was truly touched. Hubie Brown and I will be standing up there for Pitino during his special moment. Hubie was vital in Rick's career, giving him the opportunity to be an assistant coach with the New York Knicks.
I followed the career of Ricky P., and it has been a great ride.
My definition of a coach is a person who can get the most out of his people. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and utilizes their skills to reach success.
Pitino always had a magical touch, right from the start. He went to Boston University and the Terriers had success. He went to Providence, and he was one step ahead of everyone by utilizing the 3-point shot so effectively. He led the Friars to the Final Four in 1987, joining the Golaiths Indiana, which cut down the nets, Syracuse (with diaper dandy Derrick Coleman) and UNLV.
(By the way, it is great to see that Jerry Tarkanian is also going into the Hall this weekend. Tark and Guy V. Lewis should have been in a long time ago.)
It will be such a thrill to stand next to Rick during that special moment. There will be no event like it; of all the speeches you give, at corporate events, banquets, or even at the national championship, nothing will match that feeling when you are joining the best of the basketball world.
I remember when I was called up to that podium and looking into the crowd. That moment, when you stare out at the greats that are also in the Hall, seeing Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, John Thompson Jr. and all of the greats. That is why it is so special. What a club to join! I am so happy to be a small part of that group.
Pitino will soak in that moment and treasure it for the rest of his life.
Why has Pitino made it to the Hall of Fame? It is a lot more than just the impressive number of wins. It is about his ability to inspire people. He is a master motivator who knows how to get the most out of his players. He knows how to handle his team and to make adjustments.
Just look at the national championship run. His teams rallied against Wichita State and Michigan. He went to the bench and called on Tim Henderson against the Shockers. Here's a kid with limited minutes, with little expected from him, and he made two big trifectas that turned the game around. Then there was the magic of Luke Hancock in both the national semifinal and title games. The confidence displayed by the coach was so important.
Pitino has done that throughout his career. He never allows the opponent to get into a rhythm offensively because he changed defenses frequently. One time, he may trap full court and another switch to half-court traps, man-to-man. He is a master strategist who gets the most out of his talent.
He is a solid-gold Hall of Famer. He is like Francis Albert Sinatra, as the song goes: He "did it my way!"
The journey now takes him to the ultimate honor, the Basketball Hall of Fame. Congrats, Rick! You are awesome, baby, with a capital A!