The Career of Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino’s illustrious coaching career has taken him many different places. He has experienced many highs, lows, and faced different types of adversity. His coaching career has not only affected his life in the basketball world, but also his personal life, which many times come with the territory. Pitino’s career hasn’t been without controversy, but it has been one of success.
Pitino, a Sicilian American[->0] and native of New York City[->1], grew up in the Village of Bayville[->2] and was captain of the St. Dominic High School[->3] basketball team in nearby Oyster Bay[->4], Long Island[->5] (Nack, 1996). After high school he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Amherst[->6] in 1970. There he was a standout guard for the Minutemen basketball team[->7]. His 329 career assists rank tenth all-time at UMass, as of the 2009–10 season ("Record book," 2010). He led the team in assists as a junior and senior. The 168 assists as a senior is the eighth-best single season total ever there ("Record book," 2010). Pitino was a freshman at the same time future NBA[->8] legend Julius Erving[->9] spent his junior year at UMass, which was also is last before moving on to the NBA. The two never played on the same team, however, because freshmen were ineligible to play varsity basketball at that time. Other teammates of Pitino's include Al Skinner[->10], who also went on to become a successful college coach. Pitino also played with professional baseball player Mike Flanagan[->11], who went on to pitch in the major leagues and win the AL Cy Young Award[->12] in 1979[->13]. Pitino earned his degree from UMass in 1974[->14].
Many people fail to realize that Rick Pitino stared his coaching career at the University of Hawaii. He started his career there as a graduate assistant in in 1974. In the 1975-76 season, however, he was promoted to a full-time assistant ("Hawaii's basketball history ," 2012). Pitino served as Hawaii's interim head coach late in the 1975-76 season. Coach Bruce O'Neil[->15] was fired after the Rainbow Warriors' started the season 9-12 ("Hawaii's basketball history ," 2012). Pitino led Hawaii for their final six games, going 2-4 in the span ("Hawaii's basketball history ," 2012).
Pitino's time at Hawaii was marred by a 1977[->16] NCAA[->17] report on sanctions against the program. According to the report, Pitino was implicated in 8 of the 64 infractions that led the University to be placed on probation ("Hawaii's basketball history ," 2012). The violations involving Pitino included providing round-trip air fare for a player between New York[->18] and Honolulu[->19], arranging for student-athletes to receive used cars for season tickets, and handing out coupons to players for free food at McDonald's[->20] ("Hawaii's basketball history ," 2012). He was also cited, along with the head coach, Bruce O'Neil[->21], for providing misinformation to the NCAA[->22] and University of Hawaii[->23] officials. Also in 1977, the NCAA infractions committee recommended that Pitino and O'Neil be disassociated from Hawaii athletics ("Hawaii's basketball history ," 2012). In 1989, Pitino would dismiss the report, saying "I didn't make any mistakes; I don't care what anybody says” (Rhoden, 1989).
After all of the controversy of Hawaii, Pitino accepted an assist coaching job under first year coach Jim Boeheim at Syracuse. He served as an assistant coach at Syracuse for two seasons before accepting the head coaching job at Boston University in 1978. He accepted this job at the ripe old age of 25. In the two seasons before his arrival, the team had won a mere 17 games. Pitino successfully began to turn the program around. He produced a 91-51 record in five years there, departing as the most successful coach in Boston University history (Fagan, 1997). In his final season there, he guided the Terriers to their first NCAA Tournament...