A recruit decided to go to Kentucky today instead of Louisville. But not just any recruit, right? Teague's a baller. A point guard that looked all-world in recent competitions chock full of world-beaters. The kind of guard that every coach covets and that Rick Pitino has arguably never been able to land at this level. So much so that Pitino spent years building a relationship with the young man and his family. Oh...and the kid's still only a junior in high school.
Pitino spent 2 years tailing Teague while Calipari managed to change his mind in 2 months (or less?). Louisville fought against the latest, greatest recruiting juggernaut and lost a high-profile battle. And yes, that stings.
It feels just like a bad loss on the court. But I'll take losses in April over losses in March. And hope should not be lost with Pitino. Not for me anyways. Last time I checked, the laundry I cheer for is still red and white and it's still the same Louisville basketball program that we've all loved through good, bad and embarrassing times. Pitino is a Top 10 coach and until proven otherwise, still has the fire to lead this program forward.
After watching videos of Teague, I was giddy about the opportunity to see him play for my hometown team. When I heard last night that Teague would pick UK instead, I didn't hang my head. I shook my head, laughed and thought like many of you; "Wow I really hate Calipari for this." Yep. I would be lying if I didn't admit to harboring vitriolic thoughts in the immediate aftermath of hearing such foul news. But after dismissing that emotional first reaction, who can we rationally blame?
Calipari is using Kentucky's resources and the NBA one-and-done rule to both of their ultimate extents to
build reload the most talented team he can. UK fans didn't hire Calipari. Most of them probably thought he was bad for college basketball when he was at UMass and Memphis. But as long as he's winning games--and recruiting battles against Louisville--I can't blame their fans for enjoying such an exuberant windfall (but will poke fun at the irrational ones that just can't help themselves from trying to bait us into arguments here).
And what could Louisville and Pitino have done? Much like CardFan922's post this morning, I think we have to accept the fact that there's a lot of shady recruiting tactics that are out of a coach's control. If there were any wrongdoings in this particular instance, you would hope that those in the know would come forward. But for now, there is no evidence that has proven--proven--anything illegal transpired.
What potential replacement for Pitino could've won this battle against Calipari and UK? If this is a sign that Pitino has lost a step then, my god, aren't we all a little too quick to forget what he's done here at Louisville...well, the non-embarassing stuff anyways (BTW, I understand the moralists out there that think he should've been fired for his moral ineptitude. I have no argument that will sway you anyways, so I won't even try)?
We've lost recruits before. In crushing fashion. So has every big program. We moved on then and we will continue to move on (as soon as this latest recruiting hangover dissipates).
So is it wrong to create theories or imply what might have happened with shoe contracts, phone calls, envelopes with cash, etc...based on rumors and opinion? That's up to you. But spewing hate doesn't prove anything. It may feel good to let off some steam by posting your thoughts about this recruiting saga that culminated today. And what better place to do that than as a semi-anonymous Louisville fan on the internet--that passion is what makes this community so great. But what is there to gain with speculation?
Louisville basketball can still win games. It might not happen with a team loaded with 5-star recruits. But there are several formulas for success in this game. The one-and-done rule may change the world of recruiting but it still doesn't change the fact that good teams win regardless of the stars in their scout.com profiles. There are winners on this roster and there are winners still in high school.
To end this novel, I will admit that my thoughts above are fairly predictable. Many of you--especially our UK lurkers--are thinking "Well what else are you supposed to say after a crushing blow to the stomach?" Let me say that I think not landing Teague is important. I won't downplay what happened just because he signed with another team. He is a great player and this probably won't help Pitino's recruiting reputation/prestige, if there is such a thing that matters. But my hope is that after everyone sleeps on this for a few nights, you'll realize there are plenty of avenues to builiding a winning program and we're not going to cheer any less in November because of what happened today.
Additionally, a loaded UK team will have all the pressure in the world to win while Louisville can continue to plod along as the underdog. And looking back at our history, isn't that where we thrive? You recruit great players to build a great team. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Plan A was set on fire today. But Plan B and C still win championships. Coaching still matters. And we have a good one. That is all.