Louisville head coach Rick Pitino’s roots run deep in New York City, all the way back to his days playing basketball at St. Dominic High School on Long Island.
So, every year for Big East Media Day, Pitino gets a chance to return to the building in which he made his first NBA head coaching stint with the Knicks. Instead of reflecting on those mediocre 1980s games, he gets a chance to boast about his talented Cardinals squad.
Louisville was selected second in the Preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll Wednesday, only behind a stacked Connecticut squad. Pitino was overly humble about his team’s standing in the mega-conference.
“I could honestly say there’s no North Carolina in this conference,” Pitino said. “I think there are seven teams ranked in the Top 25. I know we’re one of them but I know we’re not better than Villanova. We’re not better than Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame, any of those ranked teams. I know we’re not better than the four sleepers—Syracuse, West Virginia, Providence and Cincinnati. I know we’re not better than any of those teams so that’s 11 that I know we’re not better than.”
Somehow, I’m not so sure that Pitino really thinks his Cardinals are the 12th-best team in the Big East, but it’s a refreshing commentary nonetheless. He also believes that ten teams from the conference could potentially make the NCAA tournament.
Pitino lamented about how hard it is to establish rivalries in the 16-team Big East. He mentioned the old days with Syracuse and Georgetown and hopes that the conference can soon build up some of its showdowns to that level of meaning and intensity.
"I don’t think you have the rivalries now that you once had," Pitino said. "Because remember back then there were eight teams. St John's, Georgetown with Berry, Mark and Patrick, and those guys stuck out. You had Connecticut and Syracuse. You had your rivals being built. And you don’t have that as much anymore because there are too many games, too many teams to build a certain rivalry. Now we have one with Marquette or Cincinnati because we’re coming over from Conference USA and they were our rival in Conference USA. Syracuse-Georgetown, I’m sure is still a big rivalry but that’s because of old traditions. Its tough to build a rivalry right now in this conference. I cant pick out one team right now that is our rival."