It’s hard not to pay attention when Rick “Fellowship of the Miserable” Pitino speaks up on national TV. Here’s a guy who has had it all and also has had it all come crushing down. Pitino is not a statesman on par with say Coach K at Duke or the late John Wooden at UCLA, and he doesn’t have as many victories with a single school as Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim who tried out as a junior and never left the program. Pitino’s brash edge, however, can always captivate an audience and did so Saturday night after his current squad, the Louisville Cardinals beat Wichita State to advance to tonight’s final here in Atlanta.
CBS announcer Jim Nantz introduced Pitino by listing several recent accolades, including coming in as the tournament favorite and #1 seed, anticipated induction into the Hall of Fame and last Saturday’s win at a qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby by Goldencents, a horse that Pitino co-owns. When asked if he thought he was living right, Pitino smiled and said, “Well, life is cyclical.” He then went on to talk about his team and anticipating playing for a second national championship as a head coach. If Pitino and Louisville are victorious tonight, it will mark the first time a major college coach has won titles with different programs.
For those without background on Pitino, he won his first championship while at the University of Kentucky and then left to coach the Boston Celtics in the NBA where he preceded to fail if you can call it that in context. Pitino is definitely in the “show me” category and pursues his craft with passion, flamboyance and brashness that have at times made him a target. One of Pitino’s coaching progenies, Billy Donovan who played for Pitino at Providence College, went on to lead the University of Florida to two national titles. Other than Coach K at Duke, who trained under Bobby Knight, no other mentor/mentee relationship can claim similar success.
All the previously mentioned have great edge, which for you Welchian leadership students, will be recalled as a key CEO leadership quality back in the late 90s, early 2000s. Most of the great coaches tend to have edge, or that ability to rally the troops or go for the jugular when the situation warrants. Only time will tell if that quality remains a business leadership quintessential.
Life, business and everything in between are indeed cyclical. Leaders take responsibility; losers make excuses. It takes a redemptive man to speak truth on national TV — or so it would appear.