Rick Pitino Talks Memphis Loss, SMU Game and Kentucky

Kevin C. Cox

Video available at the C-J's website.

Highlights:

--Mick Cronin said the atmosphere at SMU was as good as any he's seen as a coach, and we're expecting the same thing Wednesday.

--The atmosphere at Memphis was terrific, and that was a great basketball game. In all three of our losses in conference play we've had a lead in the last four minutes and haven't been able to hold onto it. I've broken down the film to see if there's a common denominator in those losses, and one of things we're doing is not getting stops and fouling people in the final minutes. We've got to dig in more at the end of games.

--We didn't blow a golden opportunity at the end of the game at Memphis, we played well. We blew a golden opportunity at the end of the game at home. You have to win those games at home.

--Memphis is a team that's very similar to us. They have very quick guards, and our inability to stop their guards cost us the game.

--I like our team very much. Anytime you're going into the postseason, you have to ask yourself, "are they playing up to their potential?" I think the answer to that right now is yes. As a matter of fact, I think Montrezl Harrell is playing as well as anybody in basketball right now, which is a good thing.

--We need to start getting Montrezl more of a break, which is a problem if Wayne's not playing well. I may have to try some different things out there, maybe playing Van Treese and Mangok together if the other team's forwards are big.

--Luke needed to get Montrezl the ball late and didn't on two separate occasions. We needed to get him the ball. The other thing was Luke's shot was in and out, which would have been major for us.

--Russ' fouls are what really hurt us, and he made a bad fourth and fifth foul.

--Playing in an environment like the one at Memphis makes you mentally tougher. You have to really dig in. We only have one more home game, so we're not going to have our own fans backing us up much longer. We're having trouble selling tickets for the AAC Tournament, so it's probably going to be all Memphis fans down there.

--Mick told me SMU is bedlam.

--This could wind up being the winningest class in Louisville history. These guys are conditioned to win, and that's what you're going to see from Larry Brown's teams going forward. They're learning how to win right now, and they're just going to keep getting better.

--We know that SMU is undefeated at home and we know how hard it's going to be for us down there.

--You can't blame missed shots or missed free-throws, but we had a chance to win against Memphis if we got our stops, and we didn't do it. When you put yourself in a position to steal a game on the road, you have to get stops, and that's why I was so mad that we were celebrating so much when we got up eight.

--I shaved the moment I got home. I was so mad. I liked the beard though.

--I know how much of a toll the NBA season takes on you, and I'm amazed that Larry Brown can still have as much passion to teach as he does. I just think he's great, and we're very lucky to have him in our game.

--This year in college basketball is more fascinating than any I can remember. This is the most unpredictable season I can remember. Getting anything right with your brackets is going to be very difficult. There are so many teams that are really, really good, and so many terrific coaches. I'm blown away by it.

--I've been a believer in Wichita State from day one because of the amount of prep time I put in before the Final Four last season, and I think they only lost one player from that team. My stomach was churning going into that game because I knew how good they were.

--I wouldn't want to be in the committee's shoes this season, because seeding is going to be so hard. I also think seeding is going to be more important this year than years past. The difference between a three and a four or a four and a five could be substantial.

--I think we'll be a 3-5 seed unless we fall flat on our face in the conference tournament, but I don't think we will. I think we're a good basketball team.

--We'd probably have to win our last two regular season games and the AAC tournament to be a three, even though we're ranked so high. I guess we could lose in the championship and still get it, it all depends on what the other teams do. They could lose as well.

--I don't think John Calipari is ever leaving Kentucky, because he feels he has the best job in college basketball. Where's he going to go? He knows the pressure of the NBA. I give him an A as a teacher, a recruiter and a preparer. It's tough for him to do what he does, because he never knows what he's going to get each year. I know what I'm getting every year. They're going to get some guys back next season and that will be huge for them. Kentucky couldn't get any better than John Calipari. I'm a big believer in the way he teaches and the way he recruits. They couldn't get any better than him.

--If Kentucky's fans don't show up for conference tournaments and things like that, they feel, religiously, like they're going to hell. No one else's fans feel like that. It's like going to church. If they miss a basketball game, the lord will think they're sinning. They travel really, really well, and that's the good thing about coaching at Kentucky. The bad thing is that when you lose, everything gets exacerbated.

--Mike Balado is a superstar. Richard told me he was great, but he's so much better than I even thought he was. He's very upbeat, he's a terrific recruiter and scouter, and I owe my son a lot for being able to get him.

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