Today is the day that the world blows up as Kentucky meets Louisville in the Final Four. Two historic rivals that absolutely hate each other. Now, for the past three years we have seen this NEW twist in the rivalry – John Calipari vs. Rick Pitino. There has always been this “rift” between the coaches and neither one will really come out and say why they “dislike” each other. Maybe they don’t… Maybe it’s just for show… either way it just adds more fuel to this already burning fire. The idea is: each day, provide you with our Final Four breakdown of these two coaches. We started with four days left before the Final Four showdown, now we are here, gameday.
Day 4: Success
There are plenty of good coaching matchups out there, but few, maybe none are as strong as Calipari vs. Pitino. They have almost too much in common with each other and have each faced huge obstacles in their careers. At the same time, they have also seen a great amount of success along the way.
Pitino holds a remarkable career record of 616-227 and is 114-57 at Louisville. Just for kicks, here’s his record when he used to be at UK: 219-50. Pitino is the only coach in history to take three seperate programs to the Final Four and is trying to make it back to the title game for the first time since he lost in overtime with Kentucky back in 1997. Cal has a career 503-152 record (100-14 at UK). He has won nearly 77% of his games, wow! Now in his 4th Final Four, Calipari is hoping this one ends up differently than has previous three (0-3, one National Championship loss in overtime and a vacated tournament with UMASS).
Why is this significant? Coach Pitino was under a lot of heat early in the season when the Cards were struggling. He’s admitted he doesn’t have much left in the coaching tank. So, this may be the last real chance he has at a National Championship. For Calipari, the pressure is all around him. As much as he denies that it is not, there is a lot riding on this game. The national perception of Coach Cal, at this time, is that he can build really good teams, but really good teams that come up short. Now he has, head and shoulders, the best team left and is the clear favorite to win it all. The media has mocked and ridiculed his coaching style, and this is his chance to finally quiet every critic out there (Bob Knight).
For as much success as these two coaches have had, this game may be their biggest. Pitino can sort of “ride out into the sunset” and Calipari can show that he is actually a coach and not just a recruiter (national perspective, not mine). It just so happens that, for each of these coaches, it has come down to the Final Four and Louisville vs. Kentucky for them to solidify their greatness. Plus, they get to solidify all of this at the expense of one another (they don’t care too much for each other if you didn’t know).
Will the ghost of Pitino still haunt Kentucky or will Calipari finally get over the hump? If I can feel the pressure, imagine what these two coaches are feeling this morning…
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