To his recruits: Uh, never mind

May 9, 1997

Just about every high school recruit hears the same promise. While praising the kid's talents and rhapsodizing about what he can do for the program, a college basketball coach utters words from that once-popular Spinners tune.

"I'll be around."

Most players base their college choice at least in part on the coach's vows to remain through their four-year tenure. Apparently, Worcester Burncoat big man Mike Bradley was one of them. After backing out of a commitment to attend Boston College, he opted for Kentucky and a chance to be coached by Rick Pitino.

But Pitino opted to come to the Celtics, leaving Bradley and his family bitter. He reportedly said Pitino promised him he would be around throughout Bradley's career at UK. Bradley is also quoted as saying that when he delivered his letter of intent, his father was told by Pitino he would not leave UK while his son was there.

Yesterday, when asked about the moral and ethical implications of walking out on a commitment to a player, Pitino said he regretted the situation but added recruits are aware most vows come with a disclaimer: Nothing is guaranteed.

"It's very difficult . . . and when I said it, you have to understand I'm the second-longest-tenured coach in the SEC," said Pitino. "Also, I've spoken to about a dozen teams throughout the past eight years in the NBA and have not attempted to go back with the exception of maybe one time.

"So I can say it in all honesty that I meant it. But I did say to him, 'There are no guarantees in life.' I did tell the dad that. And I certainly would have liked to coach Mike Bradley. Do I feel bad about the situation leaving not only Mike Bradley but the rest of the team? Without question I do."

Pitino added that Bradley is headed for a solid program no matter who is coaching the Wildcats. "From this sense, I don't feel bad: Mike Bradley is going to play for a great coach," he said.

"Mike Bradley is part of a historic tradition in college basketball. He will have the greatest time attending the university, socially, academically, and basketballwise. He's just not going to play for me."

Similar sentiments were expressed last season by former University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari, who walked away from a five-member recruiting class to take the vacant New Jersey Nets post.

All the players eventually signed, in part because UMass named Bruiser Flint, an assistant under Calipari, as head coach. But at the time, Flint said players, themselves not guaranteed to stay four years, must be aware that coaches, too, must seize opportunities presented them.

Pitino insists there were moments he thought he would not leave Lexington, Ky., and when asked about leaving, he responded accordingly. Yesterday he said other coaches such as Calipari and former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz also made such claims - and at the time were telling the truth.

"Coaches are not liars. That's the way they feel at the time they said it," he said. "If you would have asked me five weeks ago was there any remote chance of being a Boston Celtics coach, I would have said no."

No comments:

Follow by Email