Rick Pitino: Once the Savior of Both UK and UL, Now Despised by Both
In 1989 Rick Pitino came to Lexington to pull the Wildcats from one of their lowest points in their storied history. Kentucky had been placed on probation and Pitino was the coach that CM Newton turned to as the way to get the Wildcats back to the top. Pitino did get the Wildcats back to the top faster than any fan could have dreamed of. Kentucky reached the Final Four in 1993 and then won it all in 1996. It seems like a distant memory but at that time Pitino was as beloved by Kentucky fans as John Calipari is today. After losing in the 1997 championship game Pitino accepted a job with the Boston Celtics. After failing as an NBA coach he often said how he had left Camelot by leaving Kentucky and how that he had ever since regretted it.
Then Pitino did the unthinkable and took the coaching job with the Wildcats most bitter rival, the Louisville Cardinals. When he told his friend and long time UK manager Bill Keightley about it, Keightley asked him “have you lost your damn mind son?” Louisville fans were overjoyed at landing Pitino who would surely help get them out of basketball mediocrity. It took longer than many expected but Rick got the Cards back to being an elite program which culminated with an NCAA title in 2013. At that point Louisville fans were over joyed with Pitino. Kentucky fans grew more and more tired of Pitino and his hyperbolic statements every year to the point that most despised him.
In the years that have followed Pitino has been rocked by multiple scandals including the biggest bombshell which is the FBI investigation into a player being paid by Adidas to attend Louisville. Now it appears the NCAA championship banner from 2013 will be taken down and more penalties are likely to follow for the most recent revelations. Pitino will almost certainly lose his job today and may have already. His run with the Cards will end in a program left in a very bad place. Some Louisville fans may still back Pitino at this point but over time they will likely come to despise him for the mess he left their team in.
His name hangs in the rafters of Rupp Arena and he has a Louisville Cardinal logo tattooed on his shoulder yet neither fan base wants anything to do with him. So in a way he has helped unify the fans of Kentucky and Louisville in at least one way. Both despise Rick Pitino.