I debated not saying anything until tomorrow, but I suppose that wouldn't be fair.
I know it's impossible to accurately gauge your present emotions in relation to how you felt at a previous moment in time, but I'm not sure I've ever been more embarrassed to be a Louisville basketball fan.
The Western Carolina loss a couple of years ago was atrocious, but it was in December and U of L was unexpectedly playing without a pair of injured starters. The Notre Dame loss in '09 was technically worse than this Providence defeat, but the Fighting Irish would have beaten anyone on that night, and I also never once remember thinking that those group of Cardinals gave up or didn't care.
I can't say the same for what just took place.
I have no idea what has happened over the past three weeks, but suddenly these guys don't appear to be having any fun, they don't appear to particularly enjoy playing with one another and, quite frankly, they don't appear to be very good.
Three weeks ago, Rick Pitino said he was having more fun coaching than at any other point in his career. One day ago, Pitino said this team was in a hole, but that there was "no other team he'd rather fight out of a hole with than this one." Tonight, I saw a team that didn't celebrate after made baskets, that didn't help each other up when one of them hit the floor and that didn't bother to compete after taking a shot to the jaw in the first half.
Let's get this out of the way right now: the talk of firing Pitino in January or him being on the hot seat is absurd. We've all seen what the man's been able to do in February over the past four years. That alone should be more than enough reason to put down the torches and pitchforks. Having said that, I must admit that it doesn't feel like there's that quick fix out there waiting to be found like there has been in year's past.
I think the reason it's so hard to locate a potential solution right now is that the current problem is equally difficult to ascertain.
How the hell did this team end up in this position?
Louisville just lost to what appears to be the worst team in the conference by 34 points. They are in the easiest portion of their Big East schedule and they're currently 1-3. They've gone from a fun-loving group eager to outwork opponents in every facet of every game to....whatever it was we just watched.
The best part about having Rick Pitino at Louisville has been that his teams have never been outworked. I've always taken great pride in that, because it's a feeling I didn't have watching some of those teams in the late '90s. Thinking that you care more than the players is a pathetic feeling, and one I haven't had (in basketball) since Pitino took over in 2001.
For the first time in more than a decade, the painful thought crept into the back of my mind Tuesday night.
It was painfully apparent when Russ Smith made his debut appearance on the court in the second half that he was upset. He jacked up a bad shot, didn't try on defense, threw a ball away without seeming particularly concerned, jacked up another shot and was promptly pulled out of the game for the last time. I'm not sure what sparked the rift between he and Pitino, but it was very obvious at the end of the game when the two were talking that something happened.
Then there were little things, like Kevin Ware not coming over to help a teammate lying on the ground virtually right next to him. Those things matter. Those things are the reason the 2010-2011 Louisville Cardinals finished fourth in the Big East and played for the conference championship inside Madison Square Garden. That team graduated a two-star recruit. This team brought in four (healthy) top 100 players. To me, that speaks volumes.
Before anything else - the shooting, the perimeter defense, the fouls - is addressed, this team needs to right its attitude and its mentality. If it doesn't, then this won't be the last embarrassment of the season.
UPDATE: Rick Pitino's postgame comments: