Rick Pitino went on The Terry Meiners Show on WHAS Radio Thursday night to give an update on the 2017-18 Louisville basketball team. You can listen to the entire interview here, or check out the highlights below.
—Hasn’t had a chance to go back to the Basketball Hall of Fame since he was inducted. Doesn’t have many opportunities to get up to New England.
—Spent the 4th of July in Minnesota. Beat Richard in golf.
—Team has had a few practices now and he feels confident in saying that this is the most athletically talented team he’s coached at Louisville. The athleticism rivals some of his Kentucky teams. Having said that, you never know how good a team is going to be because there’s more to the game than just athleticism.
—Ray Spalding has made the most improvement of anyone, by far. He’s finally gotten really serious about his game.
—Ray came in here comfortable just to be a local kid playing for the home team. Donovan Mitchell came in here focused on becoming a pro, and he made it happen. That’s where Ray is now.
—There are five guys on this year’s team who have pro potential. We haven’t had that in years past.
—Told Quentin Snider he needed to get quicker and faster heading into his senior year. He went out and hired a speed coach, and to his credit, he is much quicker and much faster right now than he has been in the past.
—Darius Perry is an interesting freshman. He’s probably the most dedicated gym rat I’ve ever seen. Billy Donovan as a junior is the only thing I’ve seen that comes close. Ryan McMahon is giving him everything he can handle, so one of those two will probably back up Q at the point. Brian Bowen, despite being 6’7, can also play the point.
—Bowen came here not just with great basketball credentials, but he was really well-coached in high school. He knows the game. He’s obviously a contender to start at the two spot. ‘
—Anas has been hurt. He’s just starting to come back now.
—If I had to start tomorrow, I’d play Ray at the 5 and then four guards — Deng, V.J., Brian and Q. That could change once Anas gets healthy.
—V.J. King is going to be a lot better. He was a freshman who constantly avoided contact, now he likes contact.
—Deng is coming off surgery.
—Ray and Q are the most improved players on the team. Brian Bowen is the most ready as a freshman. Darius Perry fits there too. Malik Williams and Lance Thomas are going to be outstanding, they just need seasoning and strength development.
—The length and the athleticism of this team are something to behold, and that’s very exciting to me.
—Just like Donovan last year, we told V.J. what he needs to work on heading into year two, and he has completely dedicated himself to improving in those areas. He came back early for summer school and he’s been in the gym constantly. The fans are going to be really impressed with him. They’re going to see the same improvement they saw last year with Donovan. Same thing with Ray Spalding.
—This is the most athletic team I’ve coached at Louisville, and it should be because we’ve had two straight really good recruiting classes, and we’re going to have another one next year. Although we’ve gone through some really tough times recently, the future looks very good for this program.
—Same thing with the athletic program overall. We had the Heisman winner, the Golden Spikes winner, all the other programs besides basketball and football are in the best places they’ve ever been. This is a new era for the athletic program and it’s really exciting.
—(On the NCAA Stuff) The NCAA came in here and they were very professional. They exonerated me from knowing anything about what went on. My conscious is clear knowing I handled Andre McGee and monitored him the same way I did every other coach. That said, what went on was extremely wrong and we have to live with the penalties. We’ll fight with the appeal and hopefully win that. It’s bothered me, it’s really preyed on me. A lot of sleepless nights. For one of my players to do that who I gave a big break to in life, really bothers me. I feel sorry for Andre. He had a bright future in front of him and threw it all away and I still don’t know why.
—I don’t live in a glass house because 12 years ago I made a huge mistake that didn’t hurt the program professionally but hurt my personal life and my family immensely.
—I owe it to my players not to hang my head and focus on anything that’s bothering me. It’s about them and having a terrific season.
—It’s going to cost me a lot of money, but I’m fighting the sanctions against me. I respect their decision but also think there was nothing more I could do. I can’t be in the dorms late at night. If none of the other coaches or my nephews living in the dorm could catch it, how the hell could I? We’re fighting this thing the right way and hopefully we’ll win it.