There will be LOTS of Pitino bashing, but other than "try harder" or "he should have said X or Y" what exactly could Pitino have done to get this kid? The current college basketball recruiting landscape for the very top subjects heavily favors Kentucky now. I know his dad played for Pitino, but why is that necessarily a lock?
Calipari (and if rumors are to be believed, WWW and Lebron) are tough people to recruit against, and it's not just Pitino losing guys to him/them. While UK didn't make the Final Four, Calipari and his superstar freshman were the talk of the college basketball world this season, were on the cover of all sorts of magazines, profiled on TV, had Drake and WWW and Lebron at games, and have 5 guys who will go in the first round. To today's top flight players, winning the tournament isn't everything. By the measure of things a lot of these kids are looking for, UK had an extremely, extremely successful season.
And who is to say that's not a rational way for kids to decide? If Teague goes to UK and they pull in Miller, Wroten and Chandler, that is an unreal recruiting class. They may not make the Final Four, but they will have a hell of a year and will get a ton of attention, so who cares (from Teague's perspective) if UK's model is successful at everything on the checklist BUT deep NCAA runs? Or if there's a chance those wins are eventually struck from the record books? DRose and Marcus Camby seem to be doing okay for themselves.
Look, Pitino's job is to win basketball games, as many as he can during the season, and make deep NCAA runs. He used to could sell his NBA connections on elite prospects, but guys don't know as much about the DA/Mercer/Pope/Delk era NBA players he put in the NBA. When he first came back to UofL, he focused too much on NBA, 5-star prospects who burned him and went pro - Telfair being the most obvious example, but James Lang, Amir Johnson, Donta Smith all were high school (or JUCO) studs who committed and then never showed up. So Pitino shifted to try to get "gym rats" like Garcia and Dean, four year players like O'Bannon and Myles....and then the one-and-done rule changed recruiting again. You can't just win with the four-year guys, especially in the Big East and especially with unbalanced classes (senior day next year will be Preston!.....and that's it).
So Pitino has to keep recruitng the 5-stars. But then guys like Caracter don't pan out because he won't listen to Pitino, and Tyler goes pro to Europe early, and a guy like Teague gets taken away by Calipari. I can't imagine anything worse for a 60 year old man with Pitino's ego and well-deserved sense of accomplishment in the game of basketball having to "show love" to 17 year old kids who don't want to play defense or learn a complicated offense or whatever else these guys hear all the time from agents, runners, AAU coaches, other players, etc.
And I think that's what it all comes down to: the dirty little secret is that Pitino is not going to develop players for the NBA. Pitino is going to develop players to fit his system to help Louisville win basketball games. If that development also helps a player make it in the NBA (like it did with Garcia and T-Will), then all the better. But when that system requires a guy like Samardo to play center because he can't play the 4 in our offense or defense, then that doesn't help Samardo develop the specific skills he will need to make it in the NBA. Or the system requires a guy like JDP to play the 4 when he was an athletic 6'8'' guy who could shoot 3s but did not have low post moves.
Guys like Siva, Buckles, Swopshire, Coleman, who are in the high major prospect world but are not guys who think they are bigger than Pitino's system. The best thing about Teague was that he probably wasn't either, even though he is the best PG prospect in his age group. And to be clear, I don't think Teague ultimately picked UK because he didn't want to learn/work hard for Pitino. But I also don't think its irrational for the Knight/Gilcrist/Teague level players to realize they would rather have a system that shows off their individual skills for potential multi-million-dollar-a-year employers than one in which everyone plays less minutes, there is less emphasis on individual scoring and more emphasis on team/winning. It's not like they aren't still going to win a ton of games at UK. It's not like they are going to Depaul or St. Louis. But they are going to a system that wins with an offense designed to highlight their individual skills, and a system that gives its best players tons of minutes. They play aggressive man-to-man defense because they are really athletic, but they aren't going to get pulled if their man scores.
One-and-done guys are not what Pitino is really looking for and are just not the best fits for Pitino's system. Teague was the exception because of his family history, and apparently Blackshear has the same work ethic/team mentality that may make him fit if he doesn't jump ship in the next 12-18 months, which is a lot of time to be worried about as history has shown us. The 2011-2012 team will still be really good, with a couple of 4-stars ending up here, including guys we've probably not even thought about yet. But it will probably not be relying on superstar freshman to deliver us our fist championship in 25+ years. Recruiting is the lifeblood of a program, but as we saw this year, it does not guarantee anything.
If you wanted to play in the NBA and it was clear that you were a one-and-done, and you had the last 3-4 years as your frame of reference, and especially you saw this last season at UK and knew that you had a chance to have that same sort of season because of the other 5-star, one-and-done guys that were going to UK, and you had Lebron calling and telling you about how much money John Wall was going to make as a part of Lebron's stable, would you really have to think that hard about this decision?
So I ask again: what is Pitino supposed to do?