He could leave his old Kentucky home;
long, very long, white limousine was waiting to go. Already it had been
a long morning, even if it was only 10:05, the limo coming down from
Cincinnati to Lexington to pick up Rick Pitino
and then the 80 miles or so from Lexington to Louisville. Now the limo
was purring, ready to leave Dave Snow's H & S Hardware store.
But Rick Pitino wanted to talk. Indeed, it seemed, Rick Pitino
wanted to open some doors, particularly one in Boston, open it even
wider. He stood on the tar parking lot, next to the white lawn furniture
and hanging plants and talked . . . and talked.
So, it's true, Rick, he was asked. Are you heading to Boston to talk to the Celtics early next week?
"Ahhhhh . . . no," he said. "Ahhhh . . . If I travel to Boston, it will be . . . hopefully . . . to be their coach."
"All I've done is sign books," Pitino had said at first, "and all I'm interested in now is the Kentucky Derby." Indeed, Pitino
went on, the Kentucky Derby cuts so much to the soul of the state that
he wished to say or do nothing more to divert attention from today's
"All I want to do is watch the Kentucky Derby," said Pitino.
"I want to take nothing away. This is the biggest day of the year for
the state of Kentucky . . . aside from NCAA basketball championships . .
. and I want everybody to enjoy the Kentucky Derby."
Early next week, Pitino
said, once the Derby is done, that's when he'll make his intentions
clear. But on this day in this parking lot of this suburban Louisville
hardware store, Pitino gave some strong hints.
of what's been said about his negotiations with the Celtics is true,"
said the coach, "and some of it isn't true. The truth is there is some
truth to these things. Some things are true and some aren't true."
Anything not true about the Boston speculation?
"I think there's some truth in it, yeah, I do," Pitino said. "Yeah . . . there's some truth to it."
Any concrete offer made by the Celtics yet?
"All I'm going to say on the record is that I'm going to watch the Kentucky Derby," Pitino
said. "And then I'll speak very on the record and honestly after that.
This is a big day in Kentucky, the Derby, and I want to enjoy the Derby,
Meanwhile, it is known Pitino was on the phone Thursday, contacting David Falk, Antoine Walker's agent. Pitino was concerned about the portion of a Globe story that portrayed a strained Walker-Pitino
relationship. So Falk called Walker to make sure the Celtics' rookie
forward had no problems with the man who, quite possibly, could be his
coach next season.
As for M.L. Carr, talk
still persists that he is prepared to take over a chunk of ownership.
One rumor had Carr's take so high that the current executive vice
president and director of basketball operations would have to be
considered a Celtics partner. Carr chuckled when he heard that.
is pulling your leg," he said. "Don't believe that; it'll make you look
bad. You're going the wrong way on a one-way street."
But the right way may still include a smaller part of ownership for Carr.
But as Pitino
stood in the parking lot, scores and scores of Kentucky-blue clad fans
watched him, aimed their cameras, craned their ears, and waved their
Wildcat programs and memorabilia. For more than 90 minutes, Pitino had autographed his new book and signed anything blue slipped in front of him in the rear of the hardware store.
the store owner had asked his long-time friend to come ("I've got a
Home Depot around the corner from me, and something like this has to
help us," said Snow), and the fans had flocked. More than 300 were lined
up at 7:15 a.m., more than an hour before Pitino's arrival.
And now Pitino was leaving . . . the store, that is. The fans wanted their last glimpse.
What's not true about the Boston speculation, Pitino went on, are the numbers being tossed around in the media.
Pitino was askedif he'd been offered $ 9 million a year?
"Oh, oh . . . now it's nine," Pitino said with a big laugh.
Over five years?
"No," responded Pitino. "That's not true."
Again he laughed.
makes a difference? Forty . . . 50 million . . . what are you going to
do with it? I mean, really. Obviously, I'm well-paid at Kentucky, but
what makes a difference what number you're putting on it? If I were
interested in going anywhere, and if it were Boston, it would be more
important for me to be near my son a student at Milton Academy and coach
the Celtics than any of those things.
"I've got two choices in my life now that I'm concerned about, one is my family and the other is Kentucky," said Pitino.
"I've been here eight years, I'm the second-longest tenured coach . . .
I've got to decide whether I'm not going to listen to these offers
anymore or say, 'I've got to move on.' That's the decision I'm going to
make next week."
C.M. Newton, Kentucky's athletic director, said he last spoke with Pitino Thursday night. They agreed to speak again (Newton wanted it to be Monday, but Pitino has an engagement in Atlanta) and settled on Tuesday. Newton said he can empathize with Pitino's tough decision.
thing that everyone needs to understand is that he's talking about a
career change, not just a coaching change," Newton said. "And that
What Kentuckians and Bostonians alike are doing now is waiting for an answer.
"I'd just like him to make a decision as timely as he can," Newton said.
to the hardware store parking lot and "true and untrue" words that have
been speculated concerning the Celtics. Specifically, Pitino was asked, is is true you are interested in coaching the Celtics?
going to address that early next week," he replied, shutting absolutely
no doors. Finally heading to the limousine for his next book signing -
this time with a true Hemingwayesque touch, at a bookstore - Pitino turned and shouted, "Enjoy the Derby."
all this was a man in a blue Kentucky cap, a local businessman. "I
think he's leaving," said Don Gabhart, the owner of an electric meter
"You know that priest who's always
with him? Father Ed Bradley?" continued Gabhart. 'That priest preached
at that funeral yesterday down in Wax, Ky. where Bradley's uncle died
and I was talking to Sam Bradley, Father Ed's brother. And father
Bradley said to his brother, Sam, that he and Rick are going up to
Boston next week to talk. Sam Bradley told me that, that Rick and the
preacher are going to Boston next week."
And then, perhaps, all the speculation will end.
Dave Bradley, father of Worcester Burncoat standout Mike, who has
signed a letter of intent at Kentucky, is keeping a watchful eye on the Pitino situation.
talked to them last night Thursday," Dave Bradley said. "If something
like this happened, this would be twice in one year with our son and we
started to panic."
Mike Bradley originally
planned to attend Boston College but backed off after his friends,
All-Scholastics Jonathan DePina of South Boston and West Roxbury's Elton
Tyler, were denied admission.
Of his conversation with Kentucky assistant Jim O'Brien, Dave Bradley said, "As far as what I can say, coach Pitino
will make his decision on or by next Tuesday and once and for all this
will be over. He will inform his players first, his recruits second and
then the rest of the world."