Kung-Fu at the Elite 8

We all know the classic plot line for many a B-List kung-fu flick where the Master reluctantly teaches the pupil esoteric kung-fu techniques (think five-point-palm-exploding-heart-technique), they become estranged because the pupil uses his powers for evil. The climactic battle, nearly 30 years later, invariably features a climactic desert scene where the pupil uses the tried and true esoteric techniques to best his old and wizened Master.

Little does the pupil know that the Master has forseen the future of evil and worked tirelessly to craft a power greater still--a technique that only the Master could create because only he ever truly understood the opponent he now faces.

Such is the case of Rick Pitino v. Billy Donovan (sans the pressure points and bamboo bo-staff).


In the 1986-87 basketball season, Rick Pitino coached the Providence Friars to the Final Four behind an unrelenting pressure defense and a barrage of three point baskets, which became legal in college basketball that same year. Billy Donovan, a senior, led the Friars with 20.6 points, and flourished under Pitino's tutelage. Basketball was the art, and three-point shooting was the novel, exciting technique. Pitino, although young, was the Master of his dojo, and "Billy the Kid" was his pupil.

Flash forward to the aughts: Billy the Kid has opened his own, rival dojo in a nearby village. His band of miscreants wreak havock on nearby villages for two consecutive years. The Master Pitino, while successful in his own right, sees his beloved pupil ravaging the countryside. It pains him to see his beloved technique, which brought him so much respect and prestige, practiced with success in the South, by ruffians with little respect for such a craft.

He sets himself to work. "From this moment on" he writes in the notes section of his playbook scroll, "I will make it my lifes work to combat this scourge that I have created." He raises himself, walks to his dojo, and, amid the finely pruned jade plants with cardinal birds on their branches, begins teaching what is now known as The Match-up Cardinal Beak Technique.

The crafty old Master, humbled by recent defeats in battle, works tirelessly through the night, never stopping even for a lotus tea or glass of bourbon.

Slowly, he begins to reveal his technique to lesser opponents, thereby gauging its efficacy. His opponents are stunned!

"Is this man? Is this the zone, made famous by the Boeheim dojo?" they think to themselves, "Perhaps we were just off our mark . . .after all, the Master's pupils are not the most talented in battle. They are short, often injured, and they miss often with their weapons. Looking back at our battle I can't remember anything remarkable that any of them did individually. Yet they swarmed me! They were unrelenting at the three point line, and I could not even find the space to draw my weapon or assist my teammates." Nevertheless, they are no great warriors--everyone says so. I will chalk this defeat to luck."

Little do they know the wizened Master has crafted a defensive technique never seen before. Where once he was the master of long ranging offensive strikes, he now, in the way of a true Master, has reinvented himself into the Master of close range defensive maneuvers.

The Master hears his former pupil approaching. He and his brash band of rascals have bested highly regarded opponents and now they march nearer. Indeed they are in the same city! They will reach the Master and his pupils in less than a days time, and there, in the desert the two will do battle: one wielding a perverted and evil form of the revelutionary techniques taught to him nearly 30 years ago, and the other, reinvented and invigorated, with a new class of hardworking disciplined pupils.

Only one can leave this battlefield with the glories of victory, and the old Master will wield his powers against evil to prove that student has not become---THE TEACHER!

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