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
"I'll be around."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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
"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."