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12/22/06: A Requiem in Four Parts

I think it's fairly safe to say that Friday was easily one of the most tumutltuous days in what I think we can now officially refer to as the 2005-2006-2007 season.

So now, a brief recap if you will:

1. News breaks that Derrick Caracter has been sent home for Christmas; message boards proceed go apeshit.

We'll start with snippets from Pitino's press conference:

The issues I'm having with him (Caracter) really have nothing to do with the game of basketball. I'm more interested in him as a person than as a basketball player. We can improve him as a basketball player, but before we get to that point he has to understand what it takes to be a Louisville man.

He wants to be back, he doesn't want to leave, I'm giving him this break.

The fact that he didn't want to go home is somewhat encouraging, it also makes me want to know what he did or what his "obstacles" are even more.

Anyhow, Pitino then goes into a spiel about Ellis Myles and how when he first got here no one thought that he (Ellis) would make it, but because of his dedication and love for the game he ultimately wound up being the heart and soul of a final four team.  

Ellis was ready to go to work, Ellis was ready to be a Louisville man. Someone that carries themselves, understands what a Louisville man is all about. And when these families send their children here, they're going to leave this program a Louisville man. That's someone with great integrity, great honesty, someone with an unbelievable work ethic, someone that knows how to act, someone who carries themselves well, understands what it is to be a student, understands how to be accountable for time and effort and everything else, and right now Derrick's got multiple issues that he has to deal with to be this Louisville man.

And I want to help him, I've been trying to help him, and I'm failing right now.

I love whole "Louisville man" bit, it's a motif I haven't heard Rick utilize and one that I hope continues to surface from time-to-time. Unfortunately my desire for him refer to someone in the press room as "old sport" went unfulfilled.

While I still have absolutely no idea what Caracter did (or perhaps did not do) to set off this chain of events, Pitino is pretty convincing, and despite the limited amount of information available I'm going to side with him on this one, at least for now.

Since he hit puberty, Caracter has seen every step in front of him as merely an annoying baggage check delaying his inevitable boarding of an NBA flight. The thing is, he's a freshman in college now and he's still not ready. Sure he's Brandon Bender NBA ready, but he's not Emeka Okafor NBA ready, he's not even close.

Having Greg Oden remark that you dominated him at a summer camp when you guys were in high school is a great story to tell all your friends, but it won't change the fact that he's making millions of dollars and on TV every night, while you're doing whatever you can to find the money to make the monthly payments on the car you bought with your NBDL money, you know the overly extravagant one you thought your eventual NBA earnings would pay for, but the one that now might get you in trouble since you were kicked off the Sioux Falls Skyforce for flipping off your coach.

For the record, from what he hear Caracter is a very likeable kid, and that's great, but he's reached the point where "responsible man" needs to start rearing its head more than "likeable kid." This isn't sixth grade where you can fail as many times as you want and still be comforted by the infinite optimism that the future holds, this is your adult life, it's started, and if you don't realize that and adjust accordingly, it's not going to be anywhere near as good as you thought it'd be.

2. Rick Bozich chimes in.

Right in the middle of the frenzy, Rick Bozich somehow managed to get a column up titled: "Pitino must fix approach to recruiting." I guess this is part of the "New Courier," which I dig.

The piece isn't nearly the stinging indictment of Pitino that its title makes it out to be. Bozich simply says early and often that Rick shouldn't recruit kids that are high risk. He says that people should have seen the writing on the wall with Caracter in high school and that the juice wasn't worth the squeeze in this case.

Obvious question: Why would U of L want him back?

Obvious answer: We suck and he's good.

OK that wasn't fair, but I thought it was funny (and true) so I went for it.

The truth is that Bozich is probably right when he says that DC isn't "the kind of player a program can depend upon for an NCAA Tournament run," but how the hell do we know? He dropped all the weight he was asked to, he seems to play hard, albeit not necessarily well, when he gets in, and aside from that we don't know much else.

Bozich then goes on to talk about all the recruiting flubs in the past five years.

Too many characters such as Caracter. Too many guys who have taken their sneakers to other campuses such as Lorrenzo Wade, Brian Harvey and others. Too many guys who never made it into a single team picture such as Sebastian Telfair, Amir Johnson, Donta Smith and James Lang.

Too many recruiting reaches. Too many recruiting head-scratching moves. (Roll video of Chris Lofton at Tennessee here.) Too many recruiting decisions that were high-risk, low-reward and played out as the percentages suggested they would.

First, it's Bryan Harvey with a "Y." Second, yes I think this team would be oodles better (Yes, "oodles," got a problem? White Castle parking lot off Westport at Noon) with Harvey, ZO and Brian Johnson still residing in Billy Minardi Hall...and playing on the team. I don't know why they left, but I'm not happy about it.

For the record I was completely for the recruitment of Sebastian Telfair (even though I was pretty sure he'd end up in the NBA), because of all the attention it would garner and channels it would open up. And truth be told, I still do think it was a good move and I think it has and will prove to be beneficial.

The Lofton deal is indefensible, and Rick readily admits it was his biggest recruiting mistake. There is no justifiable reason why he's not drilling threes in Freedom Hall for a team that desperately needs a shooter. Now it's like we're back in 1992 where it's impossible to watch a Tennessee basketball game without shedding a tear or two if you're a U of L fan.

3. Brandon Jenkins will not start against Miami.

Again, a rough transcript from the PPC (Pitino Press Conference for those of you not cool enough to know):

I'm going to start Jerry. I had a talk with BJ about it and I told him you're from Detroit, you remember Vinnie Johnson, "The Microwave"- which is a nice name that we've been using - so we want you to come in and heat us up and come in with a veteran and give us a big spark. And I said it's going to help you BJ.

I've got to take a little bit of the stress off of him. He's better, I see it, in practice than he is in the game. He's putting so much pressure on himself to carry this team and I just want to take that pressure off his back.  

He's all for it, and I told him: 'Look I don't want you to make the same mistake other seniors have made. Have some fun playing your senior year, this place is a special place to play basketball at, go out there and have some fun.'

He'll play well against Miami.

We're simply going to go with "couldn't hurt" for analysis here.

You think you've got something better? White Castle parking lot off Westport at Noon.

4. Andre McGee is out for tomorrow and might be until conference play starts.

Lost in all the Caracter hoopla was the fact that Pitino said Andre McGee has experienced some more swelling in his right knee, which had torn cartilage surgically repaired on Nov. 21, and will not play against Miami and could be out until Big East play starts on Jan. 3.

Now here's where we get mad at the coaching staff.

How many kids reinjuring themselves is it going to take for you all to realize that they're coming back too soon? Padgett's knee, Palacios' ankle, Jenkins' leg, Taquan Dean's entire body, in each of these cases the player "recovered" significantly faster than the initial prognosis had forecasted, and in each case the player either looked gimpy on the court or got hurt again.

For the first few years everyone joked about Pitino setting ridiculously lengthy timetables for return and then the player coming back in at least half that time, now it's becoming more and more apparent that the timetables aren't skewed, the kids are just rushing (or being rushed) back into competitive action before their bodies are prepared to take the hit.

Seriously, what did we gain by playing Andre McGee the last three games? Why not let him practice for a couple of weeks when he says he feels like he can move a little bit, then play him for a couple of minutes against Northeastern or UNC Asheville or Doss High School, and then make sure he's 100% for conference play?

I understand that these kids don't want to jeopardize their starting spots or their playing time, but it's a coach's responsibility to communicate to his guys that coming back too soon is both bad for them and bad for the team. We've had multiple instances of guys coming back too soon from injuries in the last two years, and in each case it's been bad for them and bad for the team.

In conclusion, awesome day, beat Miami.

Peace, love, Cards.